A local teen led part of his Scouts BSA troop in building an information kiosk in Brookhaven Park last month, one of many Eagle Scout projects the troop has seen come to pass over a difficult, pandemic-filled 18 months.
Chase Stewart – a 15-year-old sophomore at Marist School and a member of Troop 379 out of Brookhaven’s St. Martin’s Episcopal Church – chose the kiosk as his project, leading him one step closer to achieving the highest rank a scout can muster – Eagle Scout.
“[Brookhaven Park] wanted a kiosk to display information and help visitors in the park,” Stewart said. “So I just tried to fill that need.”
Eagle Scout is the highest rank Scouts BSA – a year round program for 11-17 year old boys and girls – offers to its members. To reach the Eagle Scout level, members have to pass through six other ranks: Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, and Life.
Stewart hasn’t quite made it to his Eagle Scout rank yet, but with this Eagle Scout project, one of the big objectives is out of the way. On Sept. 12, he and a few other scouts headed out to Brookhaven Park to work on the kiosk. But the work actually started long before that.
Stewart said he spent months doing prep work like cutting wood, drilling holes, and taking measurements for the kiosk. When the day of the build finally came, he instructed the other scouts on how to put the structure together.
“We’re not really supposed to be doing the work, we’re supposed to be helping guide others to complete it,” Stewart said of leading an Eagle Scout project. “We do the prep work, they do the work on building day.”
The Brookhaven Park kiosk is one of many projects members of Troop 379 have worked on over the past 18 months, said Assistant Scoutmaster Jay Schmitt. Other Eagle Scout projects include another information kiosk at a park in Sandy Springs, a shade structure at Atlanta’s Emmaus House, and a sustainable garden at the Peachtree Creek Greenway.
“You need a project, we’re there,” Schmitt said.
All of these projects and all of the work to become an Eagle Scout – which includes earning a total of 21 merit badges and holding a leadership position – leads up to the main event: the Eagle Court of Honor, which will be held at Blackburn Park on Oct. 31.
While Stewart won’t be participating this year, Schmitt said this year’s ceremony will honor 13 scouts for achieving the highest rank possible. Schmitt said normally a ceremony would only honor two or three, but because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, more scouts have had time to earn the honor.
“It’s really a culmination of what is, at a minimum, four years of work,” said Schmitt, who became involved with Scouts BSA through his son Jack. “Merit badges, leadership positions, camp outs … you’ve got cooking, you’ve got leadership with younger kids, all that sort of stuff. So by the time you get through it, you’ve done quite a bit. You’ve been exposed to quite a bit. Hopefully, you have acquired some skills that will serve you well somewhere … and then maybe found a hobby or two.”
Like everyone else, Troop 379 had a tough time when the pandemic initially began.
“We probably had about a six-month hiatus on everything – meetings, projects, all that sort of stuff,” Schmitt said. “By the time we could get back outside and meet outside, we did.”
But even when some people became more comfortable meeting outside and could begin working on getting Eagle Scout projects done, others had to get creative.
In lieu of doing a typical Eagle Scout project, Sam Shapira – now a freshman at Oglethorpe University – did something different.
Shapira, who was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was in the ninth grade, took to YouTube to teach people about how to help someone having a seizure. Drawing inspiration from the viral Ice Bucket Challenge – which involved people pouring ice cold buckets of water over their heads to raise awareness for the neurological disease ALS – Shapira asked viewers to try their hand at saying what some consider to be the hardest tongue twister in the English language – “Pad kid poured curd pulled cod” – and then shared first aid advice for seizures.
“At the time, we were dealing with the pandemic and were very aware that doing a normal type of construction based eagle project could be a risky event that could be a spreader event,” Shapira said in an email. “I’d already been interested in using the internet and making videos at the time, so I understood the tools. Plus, I tend to be the type of person to try and think outside of the box, and this seemed like an interesting project that would stand out.”
Shapira shared the video among different scout troops and on social media to spread the word. The video has 842 views on YouTube as of Oct. 29.
Shapira will attend the Eagle Court of Honor on Oct. 31, and said he’s excited to see his former scout troop again after so much time apart.
“It will be interesting, getting to interact with my scout troop again and see how they have progressed,” Shapira said. “I definitely am interested in what type of projects they did in this post-pandemic environment.”