The good Scout: Marco Island Academy student uses Eagle Scout project to enhance his school

Lance Shearer

Two weeks after a host of dignitaries hoisted shovels for the official groundbreaking ceremony for a new campus at Marco Island Academy, another crew wielded gardening implements in front of the school.

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This time, over two dozen volunteer helpers showed up early Sunday morning to work with MIA rising senior Reef Weber on his Eagle Scout project. They spruced up the landscaping along the school’s road frontage on San Marco Road, spreading seven pallets of mulch among the shrubs in the area between the school’s big sign and the strip where the groundbreaking took place.

Many hands made light work, as the saying goes, and the mountains of dark brown mulch soon were distributed, leaving time for the volunteers to horse around a little before they chowed down on an early lunch provided for them by Weber. Most of the workers were Weber’s fellow students, or members of his Boy Scout Troop 2, but relatives, Scoutmasters and a couple of MIA teachers, performing arts instructor Chris Dayett and language arts teacher Keith Scalia, also came out to support the project.

More:Marco Island Academy breaks ground for new permanent campus

As the volunteers were finishing up – and the students participating do earn volunteer hours, which are required for graduates to be eligible for the school district’s Bright Futures and AP Laureate programs – Weber met up with Troop 2 Scoutmaster Michael Lofendo. “I’d give you a hug, but” – he said, gesturing at his soaked T-shirt.

Lofendo said Reef is “a good Scout,” and you could tell that meant something special in his eyes. “Look at the way he pulled these Scouts together, leading them. That’s what Scouting is all about.”

Along with the landscaping, Weber, who turns 18 at the end of June, built four benches that will be placed on the MIA campus. The specific projects were suggested by MIA Principal Melissa Scott, after Marco attorney Craig Woodward suggested Weber ask the school if they had a project that would enhance the facility, said Bill Coen, Troop 2 Asst. Scoutmaster, former Scoutmaster, and Eagle Scout coach.

“There’s not a lot of seating on the (central outdoor) pavilion” at the school, said Weber. “There’s one bench for each grade level. I painted them white. So, each class can choose how to decorate their own.”

Coen is also vice president of the Scouts’ Southwest Florida Council, and a member of their executive board. It is this group Weber will go before once all the paperwork and requirements for his project are completed.

“As with all Eagle Scout projects, Weber had to plan all the logistics and do all fundraising for items that weren’t donated,” said Coen. Naples Lumber donated lumber for the benches, Chris Burt of Island Garden Center donated a pallet of mulch, and Jason and Lisa Bailey of FCI Homes donated six more pallets. Ten additional Islanders donated cash for the project.

Before he could even commence choosing and executing his Eagle Service Project, Weber had to earn at least 21 merit badges in various disciplines, including 13 which are required for Eagle rank. The Citizenship in the Community badge requires the Scout to “interview” a public official, said Coen, and Weber chose Marco Island Fire-Rescue Chief Mike Murphy.

Other memorable merit badges, said Weber, included fingerprinting, climbing, emergency preparedness (remember, “be prepared” is the Scout motto), wilderness survival, and first aid. That last one, first aid, is taking on greater significance in Weber’s life, as he sets his sights on being a paramedic or emergency medical technician after high school and two years of post-secondary education.

Scott said Weber’s project would benefit Marco Island Academy as they embark on building a campus of permanent buildings, leaving behind the prefab modular units that have housed the school.

“It keeps our campus beautiful as we get ready for our next phase,” she said. “Reef is funny and talented, and that kid has a heart of gold.”

Marco Island Academy is an A-rated high school, ranked in the top two percent of the nation’s most challenging high schools, designated a High-Performing Charter School by the Florida Department of Education, and ranked as one of the nation’s most academically challenging schools by the Washington Post.