Last January, Palmetto High School senior Austin Montes completed the community service project that was required for him to become an Eagle Scout. Montes is a member of Troop 457, based at Kendall United Methodist Church. Montes’ project helped spruce up the Kampong, a historic site that is also a National Tropical Botanical Garden and the former home to David Fairchild, founder of Fairchild Tropical Garden.
Montes says the project included a variety of tasks that were undertaken on the same day. The projects included painting the staff office, filling in potholes in the driveway, removing a border made of railroad ties, removal of invasive species of plants and a massive mangrove clean-up.
“A bunch of us went into the mangrove with trash bags and removed trash,” he says. “It was like 25 big bags of trash. I’d say we had 30 people working for over two hours.”
That day, 79 volunteers took part in the project, a mix of adults and scouts. “There were other jobs too, we built two wood benches,” he says. “I bought kits at Home Depot. We placed them where the guy in charge wanted them to be throughout the property. We also varnished them.”
Montes says the biggest project was the post and rope fence they built around the dock.
“They didn’t want people walking to the dock. So we took 10-foot-long two-by-fours and cut them in half. We put them in the ground with concrete. Then we drilled holes at the top and threaded the rope through the holes.”
The project began at 8 a.m. and finished around 1 p.m.
After a Kampong official called the troop and said they needed work done, Montes drove by the property to see if it would be a good place for his project. He decided it looked like a cool place to help out.
“It’s a cool historical site,” he says.
Montes visited the site in late August and worked on the planning until January, completing the project on Jan. 11. The Eagle project cost approximately $1,000. In order to raise the funds, he held two garage sales and also received donations from family and friends.
For Montes, completing his Eagle Scout project was important.
“I joined cub scouts when I was in first grade,” he says. “It gave me such a sense of accomplishment after working so long.”
Even after becoming an Eagle, Montes continues to volunteer for other Eagle projects. Last year he took part in 10, including his. This school year, he’s already worked on one and expects to volunteer for as many as 15 because his troop is a big one. He recently stepped down as the assistant senior patrol leader.
At Palmetto High, Montes is a member of the National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, the math honor society and Key Club, a community service club. He occasionally tutors for Mu Alpha Theta. Next year, he hopes to start work toward an engineering degree – possibly focusing on electrical engineering. He’s applying for early action to Florida State University and Georgia Tech. He’s also considering the University of Florida, Virginia Tech and UVA.
In preparation for college, Montes is taking six Advanced Placement courses this year – U.S. Government and Macro Economics, English, Physics, Calculus BC and Statistics. He’s also taking Honors Anatomy.
“It’s hard, but it’s fun so far,” he says. “I think it’s kind of interesting.”
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld