In an era where teenagers often are busy staying inside playing video games, surfing the Internet or texting their friends on the latest gadget of communication (not that there’s anything wrong with that), a group of them took the time to help improve the community in which they live.
At 6 p.m. Saturday at Grace United Methodist Church, six members of Boy Scouts of America Troop 451 of Mesa are set to receive their Eagle Scout badges for fulfilling requirements and completing community projects throughout the year.
During the ceremony on Saturday, Jared Boscarino, Alberts Matthews, Cameron Rusywick, Bobby Vigil and Ulysses Weatherford will receive their Eagle Scout badges. Troop member Alex Scsavnicki also is set to receive his Eagle Scout badge in the days ahead as his requirements also have been fulfilled and his paperwork for the accomplishment is being processed.
Before their weekly meeting on Wednesday, when the guys set to receive the highest ranking of their Scouting careers were asked about their accomplishments, they laughed and joked and said that girls were the main distraction, but with the encouragement and support of their parents they continued moving forward in their Troop as some of them have been involved in Scouts for more than 10 years and since they were 7 years old.
Combined, the five Eagle Scouts-to-be on Saturday worked 1,535 hours of community service to reach the top achievement — scraping and painting the railroad ties around Mesa’s Hohokam Stadium, installing a gate on a path at Usery Park in east Mesa and placing a sign at the visitors center there, building portable wooden gun racks at the Rio Salado Shooting Range for Arizona Game & Fish and clearing a path at Camp Geronimo near Payson.
“It teaches you responsibility and life skills,” said Weatherford, 18, a senior at Sequoia High School who has been working toward his Eagle Scout badge for eight years and touched up the railroad ties around Hohokam. “This is a good feeling. It gives you a sense of accomplishment.”
Vigil, 18 and a freshman at Mesa Community College who built portable gun racks at Rio Salado, said: “It was hard, but we made it.”
Scsavnicki, 17 and a senior at Mountain View High School who helped to clear a path at Camp Geronimo said: “You have to maintain a lot of expectations. It’s like being part of a big family. Midway through the project, you kind of hit a slump and completing it seems daunting, but you have to give a little extra push and keep moving forward.”
Scouts in Troop 451 (which is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year) are following in the footsteps of past Troop members. They’re also setting an example for the younger members of the troop.
Troop 451 has 55 members today, but over the years the storied troop — whose former members include doctors, lawyers, NASA workers and rock guitarist Jim Adkins of the band Jimmy Eat World — has produced 121 Eagle Scouts, according to a plaque inside the social hall of the church where the troop meets at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays.
In the last 12 months, nine Scouts of Troop 451 have received Eagle Scout badges. The Mesa District is part of the Grand Canyon Boy Scouts Council, and at 6,200 strong is the largest Boy Scouts of America district in the United States, according to Sam Webb, senior executive of Mesa’s District for the Grand Canyon Council, which oversees troops in Arizona and New Mexico. The number of Eagle Scouts for Troop 451 within the last year is the most in recent memory, said Scoutmaster Greg Randolph and former Scoutmaster Dan Vigil.
Through the community projects, the Scouts also were able to provide education to younger troop members.
“I like working with wood and doing things hands-on,” Vigil said of making the portable gun racks with many of the younger troop members. “I thought by using tools and making the gun racks, it would help me to teach others about building things and safety.”
For others, the projects were of a personal nature as they were completed at places they spent their time.
“I like going to Usery Park,” said Matthews, 19, who made a sign for the park’s visitors center. Matthews is a senior troop member who is attending Mesa Community College and plans to major in paleontology. “Generally, I like to help people when I can.”
For others, the passion for Scouting never goes away.
“This is what it’s all about,” said Randolph, who has been Troop 451’s Scoutmaster for 2 1/2 years, but is not an Eagle Scout himself. “It’s all about providing an atmosphere for youth so they can better themselves, be good leaders and strong leaders.”
Randolph, whose favorite word is respect, also was quick to say there are two kinds of Scouts: “Those who get their Eagle Scout badges and those who talk about why they didn’t get their Eagle Scout badge.”
“We lived in the small community of Dateland in southwestern Arizona, where 26 kids attended my grade school,” Randolph said. “We were lucky enough to find a guy to teach Scouting. My biggest excitement was going to a Scout-A-Rama in Yuma when I was 11 years old where we rappelled (rock climbed). Rappelling wasn’t as sophisticated then as it is today, but it was exciting. Our Scoutmaster moved away, but I was hooked.”
“It’s all about furthering the improvement of the lives of youths,” he added. “The minute we lose sight of that, we’ve lost sight of the future.”
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