Two Palo Alto Eagle Scouts Make a Lasting Contribution to the Community
Given the difficulty of reaching the goal of Eagle Scout, Palo Alto Pulse decided to meet a few of the students from Palo Alto’s Troop 57 who are pursuing the Eagle Scout rank to learn why they decided to take on this endeavor.
Article and photos from Palo Alto Pulse
Lots of eager kids across the country participate in Boy Scouts when they are young, drawn by trips, outdoor adventures and maybe even the marshmallows around the campfire. But as they get older, sports, friends and other interests often take over, and only about 7% of boys persist through the challenging process of earning the Eagle Scout rank when they are in high school.
One of the main reasons that so few boys persevere to Eagle rank is that it is a long and demanding process, which requires passing all six levels of Scouts, earning 21 merit badges including first aid and emergency preparedness, serving six months in a troop leadership position, completing a significant community service project and passing the Eagle Scout Board of Review.
Given the difficulty of reaching this goal, Palo Alto Pulse decided to meet a few of the students from Palo Alto’s Troop 57 who are pursuing Eagle Scout rank to learn why they decided to take on this endeavor. Although these local Scouts each have unique backgrounds and interests, they share a remarkable sense of confidence, self-direction, and commitment to community service.
Aadit is a junior at Paly who knew he wanted his Eagle rank project to be at Foothills Park from the time he joined Scouts in fifth grade. “Foothills Park was the first place I ever went camping when I was about eight years old,” he explained. “The Park is a place that has brought me so much happiness, and I knew I wanted to give back and show my appreciation.”
Aadit connected with Curt Dunn, one of the rangers at Foothills Park, who proposed that he rebuild the campground food storage lockers, which were falling apart after 15 years of wear and tear.
Although Aadit had virtually no woodworking experience, he created a design for the lockers, procured the materials, and recruited about seven other Scouts from Troop 57 to help him. With Mr. Dunn’s expert supervision, Aadit and his team were able to build and paint the food lockers in the workshop at Foothills Park. Despite competing demands from school, his tennis team and other interests, Aadit moved crisply through the planning and execution of his Eagle project, filling a binder with the paperwork and forms required by the Scouts to document the process.
Was it worth it? Absolutely, according to Aadit. “It was difficult but I am definitely glad I did it,” he said. “It’s a fantastic feeling to take on a big project and see it to completion. The boxes we built will be there for a decade or more, and every time I go to Foothills I will see something that I made. I will keep hiking and enjoying the outdoors for the rest of my life.”
Aadit’s mom, Jay Srinivasan, has also seen the benefits of the Scouts and of the Eagle project for her son. “This process has made him independent and sure of what he wants for his future,” she said. “He has become more socially confident, and he knows how to stand up for what he thinks and where he wants to go in his life.”
This Palo Alto High School freshman learned a lot about collaborative decision-making through his Eagle rank project at Duveneck Elementary School. “I went to Duveneck and wanted to give back to the school,” Will explained. “I noticed the rundown shape of the planter boxes in the garden, so my first proposal was to rebuild them. But the teacher and principal had other ideas, and I ended up changing my direction to creating birdhouses.” Will was happy to make the switch, but the evolution of the plan involved setting up meetings, collecting signatures and revising the proposal multiple times.
However once the plan was finalized, Will forged ahead quickly with the birdhouse project, finding a design online, procuring the materials and recruiting both a few fellow Scouts and his Dad, Paul Sallomi, to help to build the boxes on a Saturday. Will also wanted to involve Duveneck students, so he worked with Barbara Susco’s class one afternoon to create ceramic stepping stones that could be scattered around the garden.
In total, Will estimates that the birdhouse project at Duveneck took over 95 hours from start to finish, many of which were spent getting agreement for the plan upfront. But this input is critical to the goal of the Eagle rank project, as Scouts are required create something that is needed and valued by the community. And according to the many letters of appreciation that Will has received from Duveneck students, his project is certainly valued by everyone at the school.
“It’s wonderful when your child is able to make something happen from his own efforts, and to learn how much time it takes to plan and execute a project successfully,” said Paul Sallomi. “Will has shown that we can all contribute to make our community a better place.”
“This project gave me a huge sense of accomplishment,” Will says. “And we started a tradition that we hope will continue at Duveneck, with the kindergarten kids contributing their own stepping stones and adding to the garden over time.”