Scout earns Eagle rank through tree-planting project at museum

WAXHAW – Sixteen-year-old Grant Van Heyningen confesses when he was an elementary school student, he was a bit of a “rebel.”

Volunteers help Grant plant a number of trees at the Museum of the Waxhaws to help screen the museum from nearby Waxhaw Elementary School.

At the urging of his principal, his parents placed him in a Cub Scout troop to expose him to a positive source of discipline. Pretty soon, Grant was not only walking a straighter line – he was enjoying his Scouting experiences.

“I got started in Scouts in elementary school,” Grant said. “I was kind of a rebel, getting in trouble at the time … When I joined Boy Scouts, I (stuck with it during) middle school. It really made a difference.”

Now a Weddington High School sophomore, Grant is a living testament of how Boy Scouts can “change boys into young men,” as he puts it. The self-discipline he’s learned from his Scoutmaster propelled him toward successfully completing his Eagle Scout project and earning the highest rank a Boy Scout can achieve.

Grant was awarded the rank of Eagle Scout in a special Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremony on the evening of Nov. 1. He’s a member of Troop 101, which he helped start in 2008. The troop meets every week at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Waxhaw.

When Grant began considering community service and leadership projects to earn his Eagle Scout merit, the Museum of the Waxhaws popped into his mind. His family lives near the museum, so he decided to reach out to museum representatives and see what they needed.

When he talked to the groundkeeper, Grant learned the museum was hoping to plant trees to obscure nearby Waxhaw Elementary School. Because the school and museum are both visible from the other’s campus, trees would help “maintain the beauty” of both the school and the museum, Grant said.

Grant chose to work with the museum on the tree project and planted 46 red cedar trees on the museum property between the museum and the school.

He began work on the project in October 2011. The longest – and hardest – part of the project, he said, was the planning phase. He had to give presentations to both a board of museum representatives and a council of Scoutmasters, detailing the project.

Talking to the museum, Grant said, was fairly easy. The Scout council was a different story.

Because the Scout council requires an extremely detailed description of the project – including specifics about the materials and supplies that will be used and how the project will play out during the workday – Grant had to make his presentation as thorough as possible.

“It was hard making sure everything was planned out so they would approve it,” he said of presenting the project plans to the Scout council. “I probably went to them five or six times trying to get it approved. A couple times, they said there were not enough details. I just kept forgetting details.”

Once the project was approved, Grant began looking for ways to secure materials and supplies. He was able to borrow tools from fellow Scouts who worked with him on the project. Residents who live close to the museum donated all of the trees, and a museum volunteer contributed soil.

“I was lucky. The project was absolutely free,” Grant said.

On Feb. 25 at 9 a.m., Grant and a team of 10 fellow Scouts and three adults began work on the project. They spent six hours digging 2-foot-by-2-foot holes, planting the trees and packing soil to secure them into place.

Although he didn’t have a huge group helping him with the project, Grant believes that worked to his advantage.

“The day of project went so smoothly,” he said. “Everyone was on task, doing what they needed to do. No one was messing around. When you have a big group, sometimes it gets crazy, but since there were only 10 (Scouts), everyone was focused on what we needed to do.”

Now that he’s received the rank of Eagle Scout, Grant plans to continue working toward the Eagle Palm Award, which honors continued accomplishments of Eagle Scouts. He’ll have to earn an additional five merit badges on top of the 21 he already has, as well as demonstrate Scout spirit and serve in a leadership position.

In the meantime, he’s also enjoying sitting back and enjoying knowing his hard work has paid off.

“It’s awesome because you think about what you did to get there and how long it took,” Grant said. “It’s like showing your trophy.”

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