UA student parlays scouting knowledge into prestigious job

Andrew Pongratz is a UA student and a clerk in the U.S. attorney's office's civil division.

Andrew Pongratz was always interested in law, how it regulates society, and its impact.

Inspired by the staff at BASIS Tucson North, the now-UA student applied for and landed a clerk position in the U.S. attorney’s office’s civil division.

He landed the job as a senior at BASIS Tucson North, and the position was a natural fit for him.

“I have always been interested in the law, how it regulates society, the impact it has,” Pongratz said.

As a clerk, he assists paralegals and attorneys, organizes evidence for trials, and edits legal briefs. He networks with federal government employees, too.

“I’ve had the opportunity to meet different people, meet federal judges, meet court administrators,” Pongratz said.

“That’s been really nice. My colleagues in the office, too. I’m in the civil division, so we are a smaller division, but I talk with the folks in the criminal unit.”

The UA freshman is majoring in philosophy, politics, economics and law. Aspiring to be a lawyer, Pongratz has been involved with the UA’s pre-law fraternity.

He’s an Eagle Scout, which taught him the leadership skills he needed to obtain the clerk job. As a scout, he was part of Boy Scouts of America’s Troop 007, during which time he gave more than 392 hours to philanthropic activities, including his Eagle project.

The leadership skills also helped him become the inaugural student body president of BASIS’ student council. He served his sophomore to senior years.

He and his peers started and developed a constitution for the school’s student council.

“I wanted to make a community that would connect people in more than just academic ways, volunteering and things like that. I was so used to my scouting community being very connected, so I wanted the same thing in high school at BASIS,” Pongratz said.

“I think scouting really pushed me. I had some leadership experience. I was able to go into student council, work with teachers, administrators and students to connect them all together.”

Leadership is in his blood. As a scout, he served as patrol and senior patrol leader. In this role, he addressed large groups of people and developed his skills as a public speaker.

He said during his time in scouting, he was given the room to grow as a leader.

“It’s a low-stakes environment to lead in. … If you mess up in scouting, the whole thing doesn’t fall apart on you,” Pongratz said.

“There’s adults and other scouts. It gives you the room to fail and to learn from your mistakes, which I really like.”

The 19-year-old said scouting helped him mature.

“We have a good time in scouting. We’re not so serious. But everyone learns to be respectful and kind,” Pongratz said.

He’s been involved with scouting since the first grade, as a Cub Scout. He moved up to Boy Scouts in sixth grade and continued until he reached the rank of Eagle Scout in January 2022.

To earn the rank of Eagle Scout, Pongratz had to earn at least 21 badges and organize an Eagle Scout project. For his project, he helped remodel the BASIS school theater.

“You have to choose a nonprofit or choose an organization in your local area that you want to support, whether it’s a school, a church. You have to raise money, get supplies and ultimately do the project for that organization,” Pongratz said.

For the project, Pongratz, members of his scouting troop and his friends cleaned out the theater, painted the floors and walls and installed new shelving units. He wanted to give back to his school’s drama department because theater was big part of his life from sixth through 12th grades.

Before he started it, he had to endure an approval process, fundraise and find volunteers.

He had to earn certain merit badges but had the chance to choose from others. The more than 135 merit badges are focused on a range of different topics, such as personal financial and communication.

Pongratz did swim team in school, so one of his favorite badges was the swimming badge.

“We had to pick up heavy objects from the bottom of the pool, like weights. We had to pick up jugs of water. That was a lot of fun,” Pongratz said.

He also earned his law merit badge.

“We got to speak to a personal injury attorney, and then we also spoke to a Tucson Police Department investigator,” Pongratz said.

While a scout, he used and honed outdoor skills such as hiking, camping and cooking in the wilderness.

His experience also includes volunteering to revamp and redesign Catalina Council BSA’s website during the height of the pandemic.

He has worked with web design and social media previously. Pongratz learned both by watching YouTube.

“That’s what I did during COVID because I was so bored. I wanted to learn a new skill anyway. So, I picked up web design,” Pongratz said.

During his time in scouting, Pongratz guided and mentored other scouts, including his older sister.

In 2021, his sister, Annamaria, became one of the first females to reach Eagle Scout status in Southern Arizona. A landscape architecture student at the UA, she was encouraged by Pongratz, her parents (Andrew and Andrea) and troop leaders during her 1 1/2-year journey.

“She did it all herself at the end of the day. She got the merit badges and got through it all,” Pongratz said.

They also have a younger brother, Adam, who is four years younger than Pongratz. He is also involved in scouting.

Their parents have always been supportive of their scouting. Their mom, who is from Hungary, became involved when Pongratz was in Cub Scouts.

A Boston native, their dad was a scout but didn’t advance to Eagle Scout.

“He really wants all three of his kids, my siblings and I, to get Eagle. He’s always been really involved. He’s been an adult leader. That’s been fun having my parents involved,” Pongratz said.

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