Eight members of Boy Scout Troop 457, the longtime Pinecrest troop, reached Eagle Scout, the Boy Scouts’ highest honor.
To attain this accolade, a Scout usually starts at a young age, earning annual badges until he finishes his Eagle Scout project, which includes both leadership and community service components. Only 4 percent of Boy Scouts reach the Eagle rank.
For his Eagle Scout project, John Scholl, 17, a junior at Killian Senior High, renovated benches at Montgomery Botanical Center, a botanical garden off Old Cutler in Coral Gables.
“It’s a very inspiring program that gets a lot done,” John said. “It’s a lot like a brotherhood. It’s a big group and everything gets done together as a group.”
Samuel Merritt, 17, a junior in the School for Advanced Studies’ Kendall Campus, was inspired to aim for the Eagle Scout rank because his father was an Eagle Scout. The senior patrol leader started a project at La Ventana De Los Cielos, a nonprofit in Homestead that helps children with cerebral palsy, autism or Down syndrome through interacting with animals.
He put together a 70-page book with photos detailing his project and the effect it had on the children.
“The Eagle Scout award itself is more of a symbol of what I have accomplished. Getting the award isn’t what matters. What really matters is what I’ve learned along the way and the experiences I’ve had on the pathway to get it,” Samuel said.
The eight Eagle Scouts invested 2,769 volunteer hours in their projects. Among their projects: Refurbishing the front entrance to St. Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Church, restoring a nearly 100-year-old caboose at the Gold Coast Railroad Museum, and renovating the playground at Kendale Elementary School.
The other Scouts in Troop 457 who received the Eagle rank last month were Daniel Crair, Matthew Evans, Kenneth Herrera, Robert Martinez, Justin Veira and John Vreones.
Troop leader Julie Ziska describes the Eagle Scouts as “outstanding,” and “determined” students. To reach the rank, troop members must earn 21 merit badges, hold a leadership position for at least six months, complete a large-scale community service project and reach all other ranks before Eagle.
She has worked with the troop for more than 30 years. Her husband, David Ziska, who died last year at age 83, was the troop’s committee chairman. Under the Ziskas, the troop has produced 289 Eagle Scouts since 1985, not including these eight. The troop meets in the fellowship hall of Kendall United Methodist Church, 7600 SW 104th St., Pinecrest.
“The boy who has become an Eagle has really shown a lot of determination and perseverance. It’s not something you just sign up for a year or two. You really have to stick with it,” she said.
For more information
To find out more about Boy Scout Troop 457, go to http://bsatroop457.org/index.php