I joined Troop 95 of the Boy Scouts of America in February of 2007. Along with my fellow new members, I started right away on rank advancement, trying to earn the Tenderfoot rank through completion of a set of requirements. The first rank is Scout, which at the time we were given upon joining. The older scouts and adult leaders in the troop were helpful in the rank advancement process, dedicating time every Monday night to teach skills and help scouts through the requirement list. After Tenderfoot came Second Class, which was easy to achieve, then First class, which started requiring time-involved requirements like holding leadership positions in the troop.
The Star and Life ranks, which were next in line, took me a few years to move through, having a long list of requirements, some of which required troop positions to be held and properly performed for months. Life rank specifically, I remember, required that a certain number of the merit badges also required for the Eagle rank be completed, which is the rank following Life and is the top rank achievable by a scout. The Eagle rank has a total of 17 merit badges denoted “Eagle Required”, 13 of which need to be completed to earn the rank of Eagle, with some being interchangeable.
The most notable task required for the Eagle rank, though, is the Eagle Project, which must be a service project performed for the benefit of a community planned out and managed by the Eagle candidate. At the end of my time as a youth in Scouts, including the few years after I left during which friends of mine were still working on the Eagle rank, I had lent my time to 16 separate Eagle Scout Projects.
When I began searching for a project to complete for my Eagle rank, I decided that I wanted to communicate with the forest preserve near my home and learn what sort of construction or repair projects they needed doing, so I found who to contact and sent them an email. I learned from their response of two major issues with the property brought about by flooding that had been recently discovered. The more interesting and project-oriented of the two issues was the destruction of a downward-sloped dirt path due to rainwater which was exposing roots of nearby trees, making the path more and more dangerous to use and damaging the roots of nearby trees.
Together with my Eagle Coach, an adult leader in my troop tasked with aiding me in organization and helping me to ask the right questions, I met with the beneficiary of the project who worked for the forest preserve and began to mark out plans for the repair of a section of the damaged path. Originally, we intended to install water bars, or angled logs, within the path which were meant to decrease water velocity, redirect water off of the path and hold back eroding dirt, but the many drawbacks of this approach led us to instead settle on filling the sloped section of path with turfstone pavers. These 60-pound perforated concrete slabs would allow water to fall through their holes and flow beneath them through a saturated gravel bed, and also provide a resilient, flat walking surface for hikers.
I needed to fund my project, so I asked local businesses for aid with rental equipment, food for the workers and donations to fund the purchase of the required pavers, and I ended up getting just enough funding to supply for everything that I had planned. Around 40 people showed up to my project on November 12, 2013, including some family and a few friends from school, but mostly my fellow scouts and their parents. With my guidance they were able to mulch a long stretch of path leading up to the sloped path and install 112 pavers into a 70-foot stretch of trail.
I laid out instructions in separate task sheets given to designated leaders of each task and the groups that they were to oversee. They began by digging out the 70-foot stretch of path to be an even seven-inch-deep hole, then they poured in gravel that needed to rest four inches high from the bottom of the hole once it was tamped down. Finally, anyone who was able to lift the 60-pound pavers installed them horizontally on top of the gravel, filling the remaining three inches of the hole. Over the course of the following few days, a few people returned to the project site to fill the holes in the pavers with gravel, and with that, the project was complete.
Through my Eagle project and the many leadership positions that I held in the troop, I learned how to manage and conduct people efficiently and respectfully. Equally importantly, through the many other projects that I took part in and countless scouting activities that I attended, I learned to be led by others and work with rather than against them to a better end. My time in Scouts showed me that it was possible to find family in people unrelated by blood. Many of the relationships that I formed during my time in scouting are important to me today and had a hand in defining me as a person.