To complete the requirements for Eagle Scout, the highest rank a Boy Scout can achieve, many scouts tackle projects like clearing trails at a local park, organizing a food or blood drive or assisting a nonprofit organization.
Peter Kociba dreamed bigger.
Peter, 15 and a sophomore at Mason High School, knew he wanted his Eagle Scout service project to have a lasting impact on the Mason Schools community, he said. And as an avid outdoorsman and aspiring marine biologist, he wanted to work with nature.
Then, the idea came to him. He would revitalize the Environmental Study Area at Mason Intermediate School as a living memorial to the school’s beloved associate principal Dave Segrist, who died in 2011 after an eight-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He hopes to unveil the project in May.
“Someone did a project here before, but it needed help again,” Peter said. “When I was in school, I didn’t know (Mr. Segrist) that much, but I felt that I could do something for him. He worked hard here and I thought he might want a memorial.”
Teachers first transformed the 2-acre grassy field into an environmental study area in 1994 to supplement the science curriculum. Volunteers later added paths, gardens and bird boxes, planted pine trees, dug a pond and created an outdoor classroom.
But the efforts proved difficult to maintain. Over time, the ESA devolved into a swampy, flood-prone overgrown eyesore, which limited how teachers and students could use the space, said science teacher Dale Moberly: “Teachers would try to spruce it up and keep up the maintenance but over the years it had become a real mess.’’
Peter approached Moberly in late 2011 and pitched his plan. He wanted to clear out the butterfly garden and trails and replant and mulch them, replace trash cans holding bird seed, plant a memorial Sugar Maple tree in honor of Segrist (the tree’s purple leaves symbolize the color of pancreatic awareness efforts) and commemorate the educator’s 29-year teaching legacy with a plaque.
Moberly says he was impressed with Peter’s degree of planning. “He really blew me away. He had all these plans and drawings and I was thrilled to be part of it.”
Peter’s ambitious plan also surprised his parents, Keith and Barb, who say the work exceeds the scope of typical Eagle Scout projects. Keith previously served on the Eagle Scout project review board for Troop 194, where Peter is a 10-year member. The troop, which is chartered at Mason United Methodist Church, has produced almost 30 Eagle Scouts since it formed in 2000.
“Eagle Scout projects tend to raise anywhere from $200-$300 to no more than $500,” Keith said. “Peter has doubled that, and he’s almost doubled the scope of work. He made up his mind that he wanted to do this. “
Peter first had to research and prepare his project to present before the Boy Scouts Council. After receiving approval, he asked Moberly to help him recruit volunteers for the arduous task of clearing the unkempt area. Moberly called on volunteers from Mason Intermediate’s sixth-grade Team Venture. For the past seven years, students in Team Venture have volunteered in the community through a program called Venture Out. More than 40 students and parents showed up on a Saturday morning in September, spending hours clearing overgrowth.
To save on costs, he successfully rallied the city of Mason to donate mulch and is petitioning local businesses to donate plants and materials. He’s also launched a website, www.mrsegristmemorial.org, where he offers information and accepts donations.
Peter’s parents say the project has become more of a labor of love. Said Keith: “He’s really seemed to develop a sense of pride knowing that he made this happen.”
ABOUT EAGLE SCOUTS
To become an Eagle Scout, a candidate must first earn at least 21 merit badges and complete a community service and leadership project before his 18th birthday. Only about 4 percent of Boy Scouts go on to earn the Eagle Scout award, according to the organization.
To see details and photos of the work being done or to donate, go to www.mrsegristmemorial.org.