By Matt Wiley
Zakary Adams always knew he wanted to be an Eagle Scout.
On March 20, he made that goal a reality as he and his two friends, Connor Harding and Nicholas Novatne, were recognized as Eagle Scouts, the highest rank a Boy Scout can achieve, during a ceremony at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church on Cross Creek Blvd., where the trio first met and attended their scout meetings.
“It felt like the culmination of my journey in the Scouts and the gateway to the next chapter,” says Adams.
Unlike many Boy Scouts, Adams, now 16, started as a Cub Scout when he was in 4th grade. Many Cub Scouts begin their journey in kindergarten or first grade. Adams says that he is grateful for his later start.
“I started when I was a little more mature,” he says. “It gave me a better appreciation. I was excited about Scouting. It wasn’t just another meeting my parents were making me go to.”
He says the excitement that he felt towards the program at a young age helped him stick with it. Many kids who begin scouts at a young age don’t end up continuing on to become Eagle Scouts. According to the National Eagle Scout Association (NESA), only about five percent of all Boy Scouts go on to become Eagle Scouts.
“It was perseverance,” he says. “I really wanted to get Eagle. Boy Scouts gave me those aspirations. I wanted to be able to show that I stuck with it.”
Adams is currently a sophomore at Wiregrass Ranch High and he says he is grateful to scouting for many of the friends he has met along the way, two of which received the same honor on the same night he did.
“I started Scouts right before middle school,” he explains. “I went to a middle school outside of my county so I didn’t know a lot of people in the area. I met people through Scouts that I now know in school.”
Novatne met Adams when Adams first joined Boy Scout Troop 148 of the New Fire District. The group has met at St. Mark’s for as long as Novatne can remember. A patrol leader at one point himself, Novatne remembers Adams being his assistant patrol leader.
Novatne, now an 18-year-old senior at Wiregrass Ranch High, started Cub Scouts around the first grade. “I remember making little wooden cars in my grandfather’s woodshop,” he says.
Novatne’s older brother Alan also is an Eagle Scout. After seeing his brother earn Eagle, Novatne says, he wasn’t sure whether or not he really wanted to stick with the program.
“I guess it was partly out of spite for myself,” he explains. “I couldn’t tell if (my parents) wanted me to get Eagle because my brother did, or because they thought that I could.”
But Novatne continued on, and says he is grateful that he did. “It’s an amazing honor,” he says. “I went the distance, I’m proud of myself.”
Connor Harding also followed in the footsteps of his family members to become an Eagle Scout.
“My dad was in (the Boy Scouts) before and my cousin was an Eagle,” says Harding. “That’s what made me want to do it.”
The 17-year-old junior at Land O’ Lakes High started Scouts as a first grader in Massachusetts. He met Adams and Novatne at age 11, after moving to the Tampa Bay area and attending Troop 148 meetings at St. Mark’s.
He says that he is grateful for all of the leadership skills that he has learned through his years as a Boy Scout.
“It feels pretty good knowing that all that hard work has paid off,” Harding says, relieved. “I learned lots of life lessons. I even learned things you wouldn’t expect to learn in Scouts, like how to balance a check book and make a budget.”
The Eagle Project
The three new Eagles had to utilize all of the skills that they learned to complete the pinnacle of their scouting career: the Eagle project.
According to NESA, to become an Eagle Scout, a Scout has to plan, develop and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to his religious institution, school or community. Adams decided to build two sets of gardens at Wiregrass Ranch High.
“The most difficult part of becoming an Eagle Scout is the project,” he explains. “It’s like all of the other projects combined. Mine took two to three months to finish.”
Novatne decided to raise money and construct three new picnic tables behind St. Mark’s, where the Troop meets. He also fixed up the fire pit.
“It was actually a lot more difficult than it sounds,” he says. “I raised funds with car washes and donations. The tables were 12 feet by 5 feet. I, of course, had help, but I still organized the whole thing.”
Eagle Scout candidates are not required to complete their projects entirely by themselves, since showing leadership is one of the principles that must be demonstrated to achieve the honor. However, they are in charge of all of the planning, directing and following through until the project’s completion, according to NESA.
Harding decided to save six dying oak trees at St. Mark’s, their roots suffocating under the weight of mulch and dirt that had never been changed.
“(The project) would have cost the church about $12,000,” Harding explains. “I replaced the dirt and mulch and tore out all of the stray roots.”
All three Eagles have higher education plans for the future, a quality scouting and their families helped fuel. Adams plans to join the Coast Guard after high school to fly helicopters while simultaneously working towards an engineering degree from the Coast Guard Academy. Novatne plans to attend Pasco-Hernando Community College while figuring out what to do next. And Harding, while undecided on where he wants to attend college, plans to pursue a law degree or a career in government service.
Novatne’s father and the boys’ Troop Master Joel Novatne is extremely proud of the new Eagle Scouts.
“As a Scout Master, three or four new Eagle Scouts in a year is just great, especially considering the statistics,” he says. “But, it’s still up to the boys to make it happen.”
Achieving the rank of Eagle Scout is an honor that truly is a milestone in a Scout’s life. Harding is happy to share the experience with two of his friends.
“There’s just no better way to do it,” he says.
Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is one of the country’s largest youth development organizations and has been teaching young people life-skills and values since 1910. Their mission is to “provide an educational program for boys and young adults to build character, to train in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and to develop personal fitness.” Adams, Harding and Novatne join the more than two million Eagle Scouts that have been recognized by BSA since 1912.
Boy Scout Troop 148 meets at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church off Cross Creek Blvd. in New Tampa every Tuesday at 7 p.m.
For more information or to get involved with the troop, send an email to Leader-BoyScouts@StMark Tampa.org. For additional information about the Boy Scouts of America, visit Scouting.org.