By Kathy Day
Consider this: About 2 percent of all Boy Scouts achieve Eagle rank. In Troop 782, four of the 40 members just achieved that goal.
“That’s a little unusual,” said Richard McGuire, scoutmaster for the troop that includes youth from Del Mar, Solana Beach and Carmel Valley. “Usually we have one in a year.”
Three of the new Eagle Scouts – James Hunter, Noah Toyonaga and Nick Post – have been together since they were Cub Scouts. The fourth, Adam Woodnutt, joined them when he and his friends moved up from Cubs.
Once the boys set out on their path to Scout’s highest rank, they must select a project, design it, raise funds for, recruit volunteers and execute it. Along the way they learn a lot about themselves while building their leadership skills, a point noted by all four of the newly minted Eagles.
They all faced challenges along the way, but each said that made the learning process more valuable.
“I learned a lot and got more insight into what the world is like,” said James, a sophomore at Torrey Pines High School. He had to get permits, approval from the school and interact with company officials as he built and installed eight benches on his school’s tennis courts.
Noah, a senior at Canyon Crest Academy who built and installed bat boxes in the San Dieguito River Park, said Scouting “was a pretty big factor in shaping who I am. ... You learn to tie knots and build tents, but you also learn character and leadership skills and working with others.”
Adam, a now 16-year-old CCA junior who repaired and replaced stairs and part of a trail in San Dieguito Park, said he learned a lot about organizational skills. “The biggest challenge was finding the right time and getting everyone there,” he said. (Adam was 15 at the time he completed his project and was awarded the rank of Eagle Scout.)
Nick, also 16 and a junior at San Dieguito Academy, installed benches and river rocks around his school’s veterans’ memorial to protect it from students who sat on it and skateboarders who used it as a spot for tricks. He said leading adults was a big part of his learning process.
“Some were not necessarily completely receptive,” he said. And then there were the younger Scouts “who didn’t want to work.”
Here’s a bit more about each of the boys and their projects:
A member of the TPHS tennis team who lives in Del Mar, he picked courtside benches as his project after talking with the coaches. He had first planned to redo the benches outside, but the coach said the players would appreciate having some on the courts, he said.
He raised money by contacting members of the boys’ and girls’ tennis teams and arranged for donations to go through the school’s foundation so they could be tax deductible. He also applied for and received discounts and a grant through Lowe’s corporate office that helped pay for all of the hardware for the project.
He learned the hard way about the difference between concrete and asphalt. Shortly after installing the benches – a cantilever design that relied on strong back support — on what he thought were concrete surfaces, they started tipping over because the bolts didn’t anchor into the asphalt.
“Obviously that was not very good,” said James, a member of the TPHS robotics club who aspires to be a mechanical engineer.
So he put up signs to stay off the benches and borrowed a concrete borer from his scoutmaster, a UCSD engineer, to bore 6-inch holes that he filled with concrete and rods to anchor the bolts.
Once past the initial disappointment he felt about having his friends help with a project that didn’t work at first, he said, “it was a good experience.”
The Solana Beach resident – who aims to be the third generation from his family to be in the Air Force if he gets into the service academy — knew from the get-go that he wanted to do something for the military. After coming up with that idea between eighth and ninth grade, he realized two years ago while waiting for his mom one day after school that the veterans’ memorial was it.
“I saw skaterboarders doing tricks off the memorial,” he said, adding that he also noticed there wasn’t much seating around the 10-year-old wall that pays tribute to graduates killed in wartime.
With his principal open to the idea of adding benches, off he went. Initially he wanted to do precast concrete with Trex slats, but the cost and complexity turned the project in a different direction. Instead, he settled on a simpler, U-shaped design made from a smooth concrete that is not very porous so if anyone paints graffiti on them, it scrubs off easily, Nick said.
He got donations from Home Depot in San Marcos, the San Dieguito Academy Foundation, local vets’ groups and service clubs along with a lot of small donations for his two-sided benches that enable students to look at or away from the memorial.
The project, he said, “was long and difficult. That’s the idea – to demonstrate leadership and overcome adversity.”
Noting that he is proud of himself for getting the Eagle rank, he said he learned different techniques in leading people.
“It’s not just about dishing out orders,” he added, noting that he sometimes thought about the axiom, “If you want it done right do it yourself” but resisted the temptation.
“Delegating is a big part of leadership.”
The Carmel Valley resident has always been a trailblazer, Scoutmaster McGuire said. But this time, he wasn’t hiking trails — he was repairing them. He took out a flight of stairs in San Dieguito Park, regraded the slope and installed new steps. His project also entailed installing French drains and water bars to improve drainage near the steps and grading a switchback to make it easier to get to them.
He picked his project from a list of suggested projects and off he went. Finding the right time and getting everyone there – about 20 people helped out – there were his biggest challenges during the time he worked on the trail. Overall, Adam said, “It went fairly smoothly.”
With a future in neurosciences or the cognitive sciences in his sights – areas of learning he was exposed to during a class at Canyon Crest – he said the leadership and planning skills he acquired will come in handy. A member of CCA’s competitive improve team, a student of tae kwon do, member of the academic team and volunteer at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, he’s been with Scouts for 11 years.
As for going after the Eagle rank, he advised his fellow scouts to “get into it. There’s a lot of things you can do.”
Like some of his friends, Noah has been in scouting since the first grade. He picked his bat box project from a list in the San Dieguito River Park office, although his scoutmaster said his first choice was taking a swing set to Mexico.
“I’ve walked there, but didn’t even know bats had a big presence,” he said. “When you go camping, you see them but you don’t think much about it.”
Starting from nothing and ending up with something that benefits the community is what the Eagle rank is all about – that and showing leadership ability, he said.
He got the plans together, built the boxes, and used his own money and money from Troop 782’s greenery sales to pay for his project. He, too, gathered up about 20 of his friends, family and other Scouts to help him out.
Although he’s president of the Canyon Crest Science Olympiad team and has held other leadership roles, he said, improving those skills is “something I try to work on.”
Noah, who has just completed 10 college essays, said he isn’t sure yet what his career path will be.
“I haven’t rule out anything,” he said, “I can see myself studying literature or the humanities or science. … Whatever interests me I pursue it.” Noah’s interests include science, math and guitar.
For these boys to have made Eagle Scout is a major accomplishment, their scoutmaster said. “It takes a lot of focus to make it. I’m proud of these guys.”
To learn more about Troop 782, go to www.troop782.com.