As both a Scoutmaster and a Father, I have the pleasure and the challenge of looking over and discussing the process of developing an Eagle project with my son. The biggest challenge with his age (he's 12) is that there is a limit to the types of projects he can actually take on. When we went to contact a number of places regarding capital improvements or to do repair and restoration projects, as soon as they heard his age, we got a number of answers that ultimately sum up as "oh, he's too young for us to allow that. Our liability insurance wouldn't cover that".
So what does one do when the spirit is willing, but the flesh it to young to be pressed into service? Well, one looks at other options, of course, but more to the point, one looks to areas where they can do something outside of the boundaries of the organization that he wants to work with, yet still have a way to make a meaningful contribution.
For the last year or so, Nick has expressed interest in doing a project for the Peninsula Humane Society as his first choice. Our dog, Rikku, attends a small dog socialization class there on many weekends, so we as a family often go to the PHC facilities over near Coyote Point. I think it has been this continued involvement with the PHC that helped him decide that this is where he wanted to apply his efforts. What also helped was that, instead of just being a random scout making a call, he was able to say "hi, you remember me, I'm there with my dog on many of the Saturdays. I'd like to do a project to help the shelter". So tip number 1, make sure you can be seen as a known identity; it makes people a lot more willing to work with you :).
Even with the willingness and knowing who he is, there's still that age issue. the Peninsula Humane Society has a rule that actual volunteers that do work on the premises or in the shelters must be sixteen years or older, especially if any of the work is construction or repair related. However, there are many other needs that the shelter has for the animals that don't require any involvement with the premises at all. While looking through their web site, we saw that they had a Wish List of items that would be beneficial to the animals. These items were things like towels, blankets, heating pads, toys for various animals, and some interesting items like clean feather dusters for use with helpoing to rehabilitate young wild birds.
With this, we talked a bit and helped formulate a game plan. The Eagle Project that we will present tomorrow to the Peninsula Humane Society (and later to the Pacific Skyline Council for approval) will consist of Nick organizing, leading and soliciting for items on that Wish List, and conducting a Pet Toy and Pet Needs drive. We will generate flyers and distribute them through schools, churches, and communities with a designated day (TBD) where we will come by with the other scouts in the Troop, pick up, sort, organize and ultimately deliver any and all items received to the Peninsula Humane Society.
Nick is learning how it feels to be inthe hot seat regarding this project. While I am happy to help him organize his thoughts and ideas, I've had to make it very clear that he is the one that must make the calls, make the arrangements, work with the individuals that will help out, and be the point of contact. He's discovering that even a project of this nature takes a lot of preparation and planning, and it needs to be communicated with a lot of different people. So far, I think he's doing a pretty good job with it, though I do find I have to be a bit of a nag and say "hey, did you do this today?" It's OK, I expect it at this age (LOL!).
This is the big hurdle when it comes from getting boys from Life to Eagle, so in a way I am happy that he is looking to do this now, and I'm also happy that he is seeing that, even though he is on the young side, with a little bit of creativity and planning, he can make a contribution as meaningful as many older boys make, even if it means the nature of his project will be a bit different than those the older boys would be able to do. Inthe end, what matters is that he undertakes it, leads it, and brings it to a succesful conclusion. While much of that will remain to be seen, I can say with pride he's off to a good start :).