Palmer Trinity sophomore Jonathan Chao is an Eagle Scout. Chao worked on his Eagle service project at Palmer a year ago. He finished the project and became an Eagle Scout at 14 years old, very young to achieve such an honor.
“In my troop I was one of the first few to become Eagle,” he says.
His project is specific to Florida and beneficial to Palmer Trinity.
“I built a purple Martin bird house,” Chao says. “Purple Martins eat mosquitoes.”
While it sounds easy, building a birdhouse for Purple Martins is not that easy. The birds are known to be very picky. It can take time for the Purple Martins to take up residence.
Chao says the birdhouse has six openings and features stands for the birds. Chao learned about the Purple Martins in class, so he decided that he wanted to develop his project for Palmer.
“My biology teacher is into nature and animals,” he says. “I wanted to build a project for the school that would be both beneficial and look nice for the campus.”
On project day, he had about 20 volunteers from his troop working with him.
“We were working on separate portions,” he says. “Someone was building the house while someone was digging the hole and pouring the cement in.”
While the work to finish the birdhouse and set up the pole only took a couple of hours, planning took almost a year.
“It took a while to gather information about it,” Chao says, “There is a media pamphlet that you have to follow.”
He built it inside the botanical garden at Palmer.
“It has special needs. It took a while to plan where the bird house would be. The Purple Martin, the house has to be taller than anything 15 feet from its surroundings.”
Chao says the Purple Martins are in Florida from March until May. They mate while they are here. “They’re very nice birds.
They’re friendly and they’re not threatened by human beings in their surroundings,” he says. “They are Florida specific. They fly from Brazil to Florida and then they go back.”
His Eagle project is the most high profile community service he’s done, but he also volunteers at St. Theresa Vacation Bible School program each summer.
“I work the kitchen. I make meals for the kids and for the counselors working there,” he says, adding that he has been volunteering since he was in seventh grade.
At Palmer he is in Best Buddies. For that club, he helps with the programs and brings candy for the candygram programs and he supports the bake sales. He is working his way up to having a buddy.
“Best buddies are very important to me,” he says. “Last year when I went to PTS Gives Back, I met them and they are all sweet people.”
Chao is also an athlete. He runs crosscountry in the fall and track-and-field in the spring. He runs the 100 in track.
“For long distance, I feel it is harder, you have to keep the same pace and the same distance. With sprints, you sprint and you’re done.”
This past summer, he participated in a National Young Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C.
“There we met several other students from the United States,” he says. “My group wanted to have a rehab center that was cheap for drug addicts and alcoholics. We were given fake money to invest on certain groups,” he says.
— By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld