What’s the best way to find a service project for your Eagle Scout advancement? Well, I have some specific suggestions, but first let’s discuss the purpose of the service project, and what you need to demonstrate to your Eagle Board of Review. The project is designed for an Eagle candidate to show his ability to conceptualize a task, describe its benefits, prepare a proposal that meets approval from four different parties, fully plan out the work to be done (including material, tool, and supply lists), raise funds as necessary, implement the project, and finally, issue a report on the project and results (which is approved by both the beneficiary and unit leader.)
As a member of a District Advancement Committee, I work with Eagle candidates continuously and spend a lot of time helping them develop their projects. I tell them that the three most important things to demonstrate in the project are:
(1) Leadership (2) Leadership and (3) Leadership.
What does leadership mean? It means that the Scout is actively coordinating and directing all phases of the project, and takes full responsibility for the project and results. There is a reason that most branches of the US military will advance an Eagle Scout at least one full pay grade when he joins, and this is it. Most young people will not have this kind of life experience until their twenties. As an Eagle candidate, you will be learning and demonstrating your leadership capabilities as an adolescent!
It is not only permissible to receive help from others, it is necessary. In an excellent service project, it is not unusual for the Scout’s volunteers to contribute at least three times as many hours as the Scout himself. However, there is no set number of hours that must be achieved. I tell Scouts that the project must be difficult enough that it “cannot be completed by you and your dad on a Saturday afternoon, but not so difficult that you will be overwhelmed by the project.”
So, how do you find a project? I always prefer to see a Scout tackle a project that he is passionate about. So, that is the best starting point. Is there a not-for-profit cause, organization or project that excites you? There are two Eagle projects that I coached in the last several years that are a great illustration of how a Scout’s passion propelled the project forward. One was a project that involved providing clothing and meals to the homeless (the Scout even built a website and made a presentation to two other troops to promote his project.) The second was a project that involved a local Veteran’s Hospital, where the Scout’s mother had worked during the Scout’s entire childhood. The Scout had massive response from the veterans as he interviewed them for their stories of military service. At the conclusion of the project, I literally had tears in my eyes as I watched veteran after veteran tell him how meaningful the project was in their lives.
Many years ago, in 1967, my own Eagle Service project was providing a new activity room ceiling in a school for retarded children. My youngest brother had Down Syndrome and attended the school, and my mom was a volunteer. I was highly motivated to do the project, and make it come out right!
Some other ideas: Start with the people you know. Ask your school principal or assistant principal for ideas. Likewise, ask at your house of worship. Is your family involved with causes that might need a project? Local conservation areas and parks are another possibility for projects. And let us not forget your Scoutmaster or District representative. If you are coming up dry, this is a question that they have heard before!
And then there are some truly innovative projects. The National Eagle Scout Association (NESA) has some of these projects documented on their website at http://www.nesa.org/projects.html. Perhaps your project will be among them some day!