By Kim Siebert MacPhail
Eric Tate decided years ago in his young life that he wanted to teach music and his college choices demonstrate the sincerity of that decision: he will attend either UMASS Amherst or UMASS Lowell, entering a five year BA/Master’s program in music education. So, when the time came for him to choose an Eagle Scout project, the music department at Bedford High School came to mind as a place to concentrate his community service efforts.
“An Eagle project has to be something that helps the community and that will last,” Tate began. “Commonly, people do a conservation project for their Eagle. [But], going into music [as a career], I decided to contact the high school music department to see if they needed anything. I asked Mrs. O’Toole—the head of the department—if she needed anything specific and she needed shelves that would fit certain dimensions for boxes of sheet music. These aren’t standard shelf sizes so I made the shelves to fit the boxes exactly—they slide in nicely. She also asked for a lot of extra shelf space in case she needed it [in the future.]”
Tate designed the project, using mahogany that he had at home as the edge banding and purchasing melamine for the shelves themselves. He also designed a support system as well as a method of securing the shelves to the wall. In all, the project cost just $130 which was funded by POMS [Patrons of Music Students] through Tate’s direct appeal to the organization for funding.
“The shelving turned out really nicely and Mrs. O’Toole loves them. POMS loves them. I’m proud of them. I’ve gotten tons of good feedback and the project has even helped during my college music department interviews—it shows my dedication to music [from a different perspective,]” Tate said.
But, while the design and construction components of the project have been satisfying, it’s the leadership piece that means the most to the process.
“One of the big things about being an Eagle Scout is being a leader,” Tate explained. “That’s easily the biggest thing. A goal for the project is to be able to show leadership so it’s not like I just came and built the shelves myself: I had to get [a crew together] and I had to lead them to build these shelves.”
Other members of Tate’s Flaming Arrow patrol were members of his project crew, most of them also Eagle applicants: Will Kahaiyan, James Doud, Evan Vient, Robby Bridgeman, Ben Nicely and Steven List. Adult support—a requirement for Eagle projects—was supplied by Art Smith, Damon DeHart, and Allan Tate, Eric’s father, who is also an Eagle coach for other scouts.
Tate said that he started thinking about and planning his Eagle Project during his sophomore year in high school but that this isn’t necessarily the case with all Eagle applicants. One of the tricky parts of the process, though, is that each applicant must complete his Eagle requirements by the time he turns 18, getting the authorized signatures on each of the necessary steps.
The last part of the process—the Board of Review— can occur after an 18th birthday. Since Boy Scout councils are regional, Tate says he will be interviewed by a group of Scout masters whom he has not yet met. They will ask him questions about his project to determine whether he has satisfied the requirements to attain Eagle Scout status. Even before the final, culminating project, Eagle applicants must acquire at least 20 merit badges in categories like art, family life, hiking, lifesaving, crime prevention, metal work, archery, and many others.
“The whole process is so huge,” Tate said. “It’s centered around you—showing the skills that you have learned throughout Boy Scouts: the spirit, the leadership. It teaches you.
“The thing that gets people nervous about all this is that they feel like you’re expected to know everything, right off the bat, which isn’t the case. Being a leader is also going out and figuring what you have to do to solve problems,” Tate concluded.