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Birds of a Feather
Posted 08/01/2018 03:55PM

Ask almost any employment headhunter or career consultant and they’ll tell you that only a select few achievements from high school should stay on job candidates’ resumes throughout their professional career. Near the top of that list is: Eagle Scout. The honor is the highest achievement or rank attainable in the Boy Scouts of America scouting program.

The first Eagle Scout rank was awarded 1912 and only four percent of Boy Scouts are granted this status after a lengthy review process. The requirements necessary to achieve Eagle Scout take years to fulfill. Accordingly, the milestone of accomplishment is recognized worldwide.

Through 2017, the Eagle Scout rank had been bestowed upon 2,485,473 young men, with last year’s class of 55,494 ranking as the fourth-largest ever. Requirements include earning at least 21 merit badges and completing an extensive service project that the Scout plans, organizes, leads, and manages. Eagle Scouts are presented with a medal and a badge in recognition of the accomplishment.

Here’s a quick look at the honorees from the Prep in 2018 along with a brief description of their projects.

Brett McGrath '18

Brett McGrath '18 The Middleton native’s Eagle Scout project consisted of constructing an outdoor checkerboard patio, complete with oversized checkers pieces. He built the installation in the playground yard at the Fuller Meadow School, where he is an alumnus. McGrath says the project would have been unattainable without the help and support of his parents, his Eagle mentor, and all of his volunteer assistants.

“Before I even started the project, I had heard how much work it was and how big of a commitment it was, which made me want to get started even more,” he says. “The thing with Eagle projects is that the youth scout is in charge, not the adults, so for me this was a taste of the real world. What motivated me most was leading a group of volunteers toward one goal that was bigger than myself. I am grateful to have had them.”

James Dean ’18

James Dean '18For his Eagle project, Dean wanted to do something that could help the environment and the animals threatened by deforestation and human encroachment on natural habitats. Due to the important role the winged mammals play in the ecosystem, he chose to create bat boxes where the creatures can safely roost. Interestingly, bats are the only member of the mammalian class capable of sustained flight. “The most satisfying part of the project was to go back a year later and see that the boxes were occupied,” says the Peabody native. “That made it all worth it—knowing that the hard work we put into the project payed off.”

Cooper Konz '19

The Marblehead native retrofitted the defunct fireboxes that hang on dozens of buildings and poles throughout the town. When they were working, these 127 boxes could help anyone needing assistance if they pulled the lever on the alarm; each box was numbered and would ring the department with a different bell sequence, alerting firefighters to the exact location. The antiquated system was taken offline when the town switched to wireless radio boxes three years ago, but a lack of resources prevented their removal, so the abandoned boxes were covered with unattractive black bags.  

Cooper Konz '19

In executing his plan, Konz and his team of volunteers scrubbed down each box using a wire brush and solvent, then covered it with a sticker that reads “Out of Service — Call 911.” He got the idea for his project after meeting with the fire chief. The fire department made T-shirts for the volunteers so they didn’t raise any concerns from passersby. “This project taught me a lot about managing others and managing a large-scale effort,” says Konz. “I had never led something on such a scale, and it really taught me a lot about leadership.”

Cooper was a “Lone Scout” for his first half-decade in the Boy Scouts, as his family lived in a rural part of Canada, and then Chile from 2011–15. Konz had to work on merit badges and rank requirements by himself instead of as part of a troop. In 2014, Konz’s father, Nicholas, an Eagle Scout himself and former scoutmaster, founded a boy scout troop at Cooper’s international school in Chile. In 2015, the family moved to Marblehead, where he joined Troop 11.

Forrest Dawe '18

Forrest Dawe '18The Danvers native coordinated the installation of 600 feet of water pipe at his hometown’s Endicott Park, linking the playground water bubbler to new, three-season spigots at the park’s fire pit and pasture shelter for animals. Dawe first thought of the idea shortly after joining Troop 58. While camping at Endicott Park, he was assigned to get a bucket of water before the troop could start a fire. The five-gallon bucket weighed 40 pounds, and the walk was almost a quarter mile.

“I figured it would be a lot easier to run a hose to our campground than to carry the water all the way there,” recalls Dawe. “The idea stuck with me, so when I started working intently on my project, this was one of the first things that came to mind. By moving the water source closer to where it’s needed, the fire pit became safer, allowing quick access in an emergency. Also, the water is safe for the animals to drink, so Park Rangers don't have to make the same long trip when refilling water receptacles for the animals.”

Dawe adds that all the materials were donated by Cole Landscaping and that he was inspired by all the people who pitched in. “My parents and troop leaders lent me so much support and guidance while I tried to figure out how to approach this, as well as giving input on many other difficulties I came across,” he says.

Gerald Hinch '19

Gerald Hinch '19The Lynnfield native’s project was to create two promotional videos about the summer day camp at the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary in Topsfield. This Massachusetts Audubon program gives young people the opportunity to learn about nature while engaging in outdoor activities at various locations throughout the sanctuary. The videos will live on the IRWS website and its YouTube channel to promote the summer camp to potential campers. The project can be viewed as a long form and short form promo.

“I have always enjoyed creating art like movies and stories that people would enjoy,” says Hinch. “Scouting and SJP have given me opportunities to express my creativity through video, and I wanted my Eagle Scout project to combine these skills with my love of the outdoors. I had visited IRWS as a kid, and I looked on their website and saw they didn’t have any promotional videos. I approached their management and they liked the idea to promote their summer camp.”

Hinch took plenty away from the experience. “Becoming an Eagle Scout is more than just the project, it’s seven years of hard work and community service. It actually has a lot in common with what is taught at St. John’s Prep in terms of how to be a more successful person in the future. The project taught me how to be a team leader of kids my age, and also about working with the camp directors to get their input and to give them guidance. It also gave me the opportunity to work with industry experts in the production of my video, so I learned what it takes to be successful in what I hope is my future career.”

Aaron Kelly '21

Aaron Kelly '21Only a rising sophomore, the Peabody native and some fellow Scouts hand-cleaned 250 headstones, the bench, the statute of St. Joseph, the Celtic Cross and the Xaverian Brothers memorial inside the Xaverian Brothers Cemetery on the St. John’s campus. Using only Simple Green and brushes, the group spent weeks returning the memorials to their near-original state.

“Over the years, these headstones and statues have accumulated dirt and mildew,” recalls Kelly, who says that he has the utmost respect for the late brothers, who devoted their lives to teaching generations of young men. “When I first saw them two years ago, I knew they had to be cleaned, and I decided that would be my Eagle Scout project. Despite many challenges along the way—such as postponing the entire project from March to May because of unseasonable weather—we feel like we made a lasting, beneficial impact on the Prep community.”

Visitors to the cemetery can now clearly view the rows of small, white marble and granite headstones along with the religious icons. Each headstone carries the same, now-legible inscription template: religious name, birth/death dates, and the number of years in religious service. Kelly particularly enjoyed meeting many of the retired brothers, and especially appreciated the company of Brother John Kerr, who would stop by during his morning and afternoon walks. “Listening to Brother Kerr as he pointed out certain graves of the brothers, and told many delightful stories about them, and hearing the others talk about their years in the Brotherhood made the project well worth my time,” says Kelly. “I will always cherish the experience and I’m forever grateful to everyone at SJP for their support and words of encouragement.”

Note: In the fall of 2017, five additional St. John’s students were recognized as Eagle Scouts: Harrison Fiscus ’18, Michael Constas ’18, Ben House ’18, Wes Miles ’18 and Lars Purcell ’19.
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