Senior Eagle Scouts learn life skills through leading community service projects

Senior+Ken+Cox+stands+with+the+Vice+President+and+Treasurer+of+the+Friends+of+the+Senior+Center+Committee%2C+funders+of+his+Eagle+Scout+Project.+

Photo Liz Tretiak

Senior Ken Cox stands with the Vice President and Treasurer of the Friends of the Senior Center Committee, funders of his Eagle Scout Project.

Marin Klein, Assistant Opinion Editor

How can you be a good leader? High schoolers are confronted with this question a lot, but many rarely have the opportunity to be in leadership positions. However, in working towards becoming Eagle Scouts, eight seniors were given the chance to experience leading a community service project. 

The Eagle Scout ranking is the highest attainable in the Boy Scouts of America program. Only about 8-10% of scouts receive this rank after meeting seven requirements and successfully completing their project.

In order to earn their Eagle Scout ranking, each scout was tasked with leading, presenting, planning, and executing community service projects that took time and commitment. These projects taught each scout about the hard work that goes into managing a project, and they all walked away with newfound skills that will help them later in life.

It feels really good and satisfying afterward that someone benefited from what I did today”

— Jake Clancy

“Behind every project, there’s a bunch of roadblocks,” senior scout Andrew Zalev said. “Nothing is as easy as it seems, but with a determined attitude you can get it done.”

Zalev’s project, creating new flag poles for a Southborough Memorial, not only taught him about managing and leadership but also opened his eyes to his interest in engineering. 

“My Eagle Scout project told me I want to become an engineer, and I want to work in a team,” Zalev said. “I got to work with an engineer who helped me design the flagpole, and he brought so many different ideas to the table I had never thought of before, and I want to be able to do this.”

The main takeaway from each scout was leadership, but they also gained satisfaction from their work. Senior Jake Clancy’s project was to create a new horseshoe pit for veterans at the American Legion in Northborough. His greatest takeaway was a stronger appreciation for community service work.

“It feels really good and satisfying afterward that someone benefited from what I did today,” Clancy said. 

The scouts also learned valuable lessons in leadership. Senior Nick Uzar, who made masks for residents at Whitney Place, a nursing home in Northborough, learned to manage others. He recognized that clearly communicating your objectives is extremely important.

“It was difficult to have other people do something for you,” Uzar said. “It’s a good learning experience for later in life with jobs and college.” 

Similar to Uzar, senior Gabi Bazikas learned the value of communication while installing a memorial bench for a Southborough veteran, John Wilson. Bazikas frequently communicated with the Wilson family, his troop leader, and the town of Southborough.

“Getting your point across clearly and briefly is always a good [skill] to have,” Bazikas said.

Scouts also walked away from their projects with new insight into making a well-formed plan. Senior Ken Cox worked hard to organize building planter boxes for residents at Northborough Senior Center, so the residents could grow their own plants. Cox had to create a plan from scratch: budgeting, planning, and orchestrating the construction while communicating with other businesses and the senior centers.

Senior Micheal McEvoy stands behind the garden beds he constructed for the Southborough Library for his Eagle Scout project.
(Photo Pete DiStefano)

“The whole goal of the Eagle project is that you’re planning the entire thing; you’re budgeting the entire thing,” Cox said. “You are the head of this operation with an end goal in mind.”

Like Cox, senior Michael McEvoy also found the value of having to create a plan for a project. McEvoy’s project was constructing and installing garden beds at the Southborough Library.

“I had to schedule my day minute-by-minute to get everything done,” McEvoy said. “I have that skill now so later in life, if I ever have a time that’s busy, I’ll know what to do.”

Senior Eric Hanson stands in front of his Eagle Scout project, which was creating a trailhead for Southborough trials. (Submitted Eric Hanson)

Life doesn’t always work out according to plan, and the scouts also had to deal with setbacks and changes in their plans. Seniors Eric Hanson and Tony Bianchi both had obstacles to overcome during their project.

Hanson’s original project was to build sign kiosks at the start of new Southborough trails explaining trail routes. He hit a roadblock when the police chief notified him that one of the kiosks, which was at an intersection, would disrupt traffic. Hanson had to rearrange his plans, communicate with the board of selectmen, and find new locations for his trailheads. He walked away with a value for perseverance. 

“I did all the planning and had it down, and then the police chief told me I had to restart and get it approved by the board of selectmen,” Hanson said. “It was a little bit of a pain, but I had to push through and keep trying.”

Bianchi also found challenges related to COVID-19. He planned to help the Sterling Animal Shelter with a donation drive, but when quarantine began, he had to throw out his original plan and transfer his project to be completely online.

“We had all the plans ready in March, and then COVID hit and everything got rearranged,” Bianchi said. “I had to create an entirely new project based around the same idea. Originally it was a lot more ambitious…but [in the end,] it was a lot more marketed online.”

While the scouts had many different experiences with their projects, they all found value in their newfound leadership skills and the connections they made while being in troops together. Most of them have been in troops together since elementary or middle school. Each of these seniors came from various troops, but they still all built a strong community through their Eagle Scout projects along with memories that will last a lifetime.

“You really build strong relationships with people,” Uzar said. “ It’s kind of like a brotherhood.”