Two young men from South Brunswick were recently honored for their service to the community when they achieved the highest honor in scouting, the rank of Eagle Scout.
Stephen Grzelak and Michael Hickey, from Boy Scout Troop 90 in Kendall Park, were honored during an Eagle Court of Honor on Nov. 26, at the .
Becoming an Eagle Scout requires earning at least 21 merit badges, while also demonstrating spirit through the Boy Scout oath and law, service, and leadership. Attaining the rank of Eagle also includes a service project that the Scout organizes and manages to demonstrate leadership.
Both Hickey and Grzelak spent long hours doing community service projects for the betterment of South Brunswick to earn their Eagle honors, but it was the years of work beforehand that made the achievement much more meaningful.
"I think the journey is more important than the actual achievement of Eagle, because of the work and leadership that's required," Grzelak said. "When I first joined scouting I was a shy and quiet kid, kind of a wallflower who would only do what was asked of me. Scouting transformed me when I took on my first leadership role, and now I'm Senior Patrol Leader in charge of running my troop. So that progression transformed me, and my Eagle Scout Badge is a representation of that."
For his service project, Grzelak performed an improvement project on the Griggstown day use area, located in the Delaware-Raritan Canal State Park. His project included the installation of 35 parking barriers along the back edge of the parking lot, clearing 15 truckloads of fallen trees and other debris from the area, and refurbishing the park's information kiosk. About 20 volunteers worked 360 man-hours to complete the project, over a three-day period in May under Grzelak's leadership.
"I was researching a couple of projects when I saw this one," he said. "At first I was going to do the parking barriers. But it's near my house and is a place I go when I walk along the canal. So when I went to visit it, I noticed a lot of other problems and saw this as an opportunity to make this a much nicer place."
For Hickey's service project, he landscaped and . The two-part project consisted of cleaning up the grave site and building a chained fence around .
"I wanted to figure out something in the town that needed improving, so my neighbor works for the township and told me about the farm and that the site was all beat up," Hickey said. "So I went over there and met up with (historian) James Shackleford and we discussed ideas. Then I brought it to my troop and they all thought it was a good idea."
Hickey said about 25 volunteers put in approximately 150 man-hours working to revitalize the site in May. At the subsequent rededication ceremony, 11 descendants of Thomas Titus were on hand to share a bit of history about the farm.
"I thought this was a really important piece of history that no one knew about and was run down," Hickey said. "I wanted to make it better and spread awareness, but also I thought his descendents deserved a better grave site to visit."
Hickey thanked Shackleford and South Brunswick Deputy Mayor Chris Killmurray for their assistance on the project. Currently a freshman at Middlesex County College for Engineering Science, Hickey plans to transfer to the New York Institute of Technology for Engineering Management. He said the work he put in to become an Eagle Scout was worth the long road he traveled to get there.
"I waited a long time for this," Hickey said. "I've been in the scouts since the second grade and I finally reached the end of the road. It felt really good to become an Eagle Scout because I worked so hard for it."
Grzelak, a senior at South Brunswick High School who plans to major in Aeronautical Engineering in college, said earning the honor of Eagle Scout helps to prepare young men for future success.
"I think of scouting like it's management preparation for the real world," he said. "You can take on a job, and fail, but you learn from your failures and you don't get penalized. But what you do always, is you learn. That's really important and it gives me an advantage in the workforce I will enter."