Seventeen-year-old Jacob Jennings has always loved plants and trees, so when it came time to choose his Eagle Scout project, he knew exactly where to go. He approached the director of the , his hometown, to see if he could work on an outdoor project.
The timing was perfect.
The nonprofit organization had just received a grant to build four raised garden beds next to the Carriage House, at Sheep Pasture. NRT Director Jen Cummings had some blueprint plans for the layout, which included four raised beds in the middle of an open yard and a narrow garden area along the side of the building.
What made it such an ideal opportunity was that it was a simple plan that could be expanded – exactly the type of project Jennings likes. An environmental science major at , Jennings thrives on exceeding expectations.
“She (Cummings) told me that I could figure it out as I wanted. And I wanted to go above and beyond -- to make it a bigger project,” he said.
Jennings used a combination of innovation, leadership skills and hard work to create a complete makeover for the area. He started by enlisting the help of a local nursery owner, who advised him on landscaping. Instead of going with the original plan, to plant Hostas in a narrow garden, he opted to plant an assortment of ornamental shrubs throughout the area. He then decided to build a semi-circular pathway between the raised beds and the woods, which includes gravel, stone steps, and woodchips.
He also recruited a local contractor to dig up a wooded area with a backhoe, and filled it with wood chips and plants. Now, when people look out into the woods, they see bright greenery, with different textures and colors, instead of weeds.
The project involved 45 to 50 people, including eight scouts and a host of local volunteers. Most of the work took place over a week in the summer, when Jennings and the scouts built the raised beds and the path, but the whole project took about four months.
“He put a lot of effort into it, and it looks fabulous. We feel fortunate to be able to work with him,” said Cummings
In the coming months, as shrubs start blooming and planting begins, the community will begin to enjoy the fruits of his labor. Cummings said that small children, who attend a summer day camp, will be able to learn gardening on the raised beds. She also plans to hold gardening classes in another year.
Jennings got the project approved by a review board in November, after working four months. He said it taught him patience and honed his leadership skills, because it required him to vocalize his needs and manage a variety of people.
He is one of the few Eagle Scouts to get his project approved at age 17, while still an active scout. His father and scout leader, Mark Jennings, said this has allowed him to be a mentor for others, which has been great for the troop. He’s also enjoyed watching his son mature over the years. He said his most memorable feat was climbing a 30-foot pole during a summer scout outing in New Mexico, and ringing the bell when he reached the top.
“Opportunities like that have been great,” he said
The Eagle Scout has also had a terrific four years at high school. As an environmental science major, he’s helped to release salmon fry into rivers, and has kept track of amphibians, to see if they are endangered species, in the Hockomock Swamp. He’s also used those same leadership skills in school as he has in scouts.
“He is the first to move and make things happen, and he is constantly encouraging his peers around him to work on getting tasks done,” said his teacher, Tabitha Hobbs.
Jennings said he plans to study forestry in college next year. He’s been accepted to all of the eight colleges he applied to, but decisions don’t come lightly to him; he’s weighing all his options and will most likely decide right before the deadline.
In the meantime, he’ll continue to enjoy school and scouts. He also looks forward to a June ceremony, when he’ll be honored for his project and his rank.
“It’s the pinnacle of the scouting experience, and it means a lot because it took so long to get it,” Jennings said.
Volunteers who helped Jacob Jennings include:
- Boy Scout Troop #42
- Anthony Cogliano, Blueview Nurseries (assisted with landscaping)
- May’s Tire and Accessory Repair (donated backhoe and labor)
- Mr. John Mallers – former scout leader
- James W. Fleet, Inc. – donated wood chips
Article submitted courtesy of Southeastern Regional Press Release.