Austin Channels (left), a Boy Scout with Troop 180, built this sign for Freedom High in Tampa Palms as his Eagle project. Austin (with Freedom principal Kevin Stephenson) will graduate from the school next May.

To achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest rank for scouts with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), Austin Channels had to lead a project that would help his community.

As a student at Freedom High in Tampa Palms, who will start his senior year this fall, Austin wanted to do something to impact his school for good.

“In previous years, there was a football sign that was up with the football schedule,” Austin explains. “Every year, they had to make a new sign and print it just for the new football schedule.”

So Austin — with the help of his mom, Kim — came up with the idea for an interchangeable sign that could make announcements for all the sports and other important school-related info.

Austin got approval from the school and led a team of fellow scouts and family members to conceptualize, design, build and implement the sign, plus add lighting and landscaping. He had to do his own fund raising to purchase materials, and says he met his goal of about $800 by selling T-shirts.

He worked to pick the perfect spot for the sign, where it could be seen by cars both entering and leaving the school.

Now, Austin’s sign will be maintained by the school, with student assistants changing the words on it as needed.

A final phase of the project will be to add clear plexiglass and a lock, so that no one can switch the letters around without the school’s authorization.

Austin is glad to be able to use his Eagle project as a platform to do something significant at his high school.

“It was cool to give back,” Austin says. “After being there for years with everyone teaching you, it’s good to give back to the school a little bit.”

Austin’s Eagle project is the culmination of his many years in Scouts, starting with Cub Scouts, when he was in third grade at Tampa Palms Elementary.

To achieve the Eagle rank, he’ll need to complete a Board of Review, which he expects to do soon. Once he earns the Eagle rank, his family will host a celebration this fall.

“It’s not as easy as other people made it look,” says Austin, who explains he’s seen many older scouts complete their Eagle projects, “because you’re leading everyone, you’re not just doing the project.”

Austin is a member of Troop 180, which meets at Compton Park in Tampa Palms. He says the best thing about his Boy Scout experience has been some of the incredible trips he’s had the opportunity to take, such as a 50-mile backpacking trip through the mountains of Wyoming, including Yellowstone Park.

He says his journey to earn the Eagle rank is just another part of his Scouting experience, and he looks forward to finishing out the year with his troop before he completes the program when he graduates high school.

“It’s like mountain climbing,” Austin says, “You climb one, but then there’s another one a little bit taller that you can climb.”

His dad, Steve, who is a teacher at Freedom, says Austin’s scouting experience has taught him skills and helped him to be more self-reliant than many kids his age.

“Austin has little side businesses repairing cell phones and doing car repairs that has taught him to appreciate money,” says Steve. “He bought his own car with his own money, after saving for several years. Not many teenagers do that.”

Steve says his son has spent a lot of his time this summer doing yard work for elderly neighbors, including one he drives to various appointments and whenever she needs a ride somewhere.
“It’s been a delight to follow his journey,” says Steve, “and yes, I’m really proud of him.”

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