Written by John D. Ryan, Putnam, Connecticut scout master
All dreams have to start somewhere.
The Academy, in cooperation with the Connecticut Rivers Council of the Boy Scouts of America, hosted a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) merit badge program for over 120 scouts from five different states.
“Science and history are my best subjects so this was really good,” said Scout Damien-Michael Jacques, from Troop 21 based in Putnam, Connecticut. “The chemistry lab was cool.”
In addition to chemistry, cadets and Academy instructors taught hands-on programs in engineering, electricity and electronics, emergency preparedness and citizenship, among others.
Professor of Government Evan T. Haglund, a troop committee member in Troop 151 in Waterford, Connecticut, headed up the event for the Academy.
“This was the fifth year in a row we’ve done this here,” said Haglund. “I’m delighted with how it went. The scouts really got something out of it. It’s great to see how our cadets stepped up and volunteered to run this and to teach, giving up their time when they could have done something else.”
An event like this highlights the connection between scouting and America’s service academies. It’s well known that many male graduates are Eagle Scouts. Coast Guard Lt. Luke P. Mayotte is one of them.
Mayotte graduated from the Academy with a degree in civil engineering in 2010. Six years before joining the Coast Guard, Mayotte earned the Boy Scout’s highest rank while he was a member of Troop 171 in his hometown of Hampden, Massachusetts.
Today he’s a construction manager at the Academy. Five members of his former troop made the trip from Springfield, Massachusetts, to attend the day’s engineering program.
“Being an Eagle Scout helped me to get into the Coast Guard Academy,” Mayotte said. “It helped me in life, to prepare for things and succeed.”
One of Mayotte’s former scoutmasters brought Troop 171 to the event. Jean-Guy G. Belisle, of Hampden, is now the troop’s committee chairman. Belisle was impressed with the STEM program, and particularly impressed with the cadets who ran it.
“I’ve seen a lot of leadership here,” Belisle said. “This is the kind of thing our scouts can learn from and pick up on by being here. This really went well. Our boys got a real opportunity from this that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
While his Massachusetts counterpart was watching his scouts learn how to build ships at the engineering program, Troop 21 Committee Chairman Frank Bichard, of Putnam, spent the afternoon watching Jacques work with other scouts to create acid rain in the chemistry lab.
“The guys were able to see how a lab works and how chemistry is important in real life,” said Bichard, a chemist. “I’m glad we came.”
Troop 21 Scoutmaster Peter A. Lombardo said the STEM program at the Coast Guard Academy was only part of the troop’s busy schedule. It all started with an August fishing trip, followed by a hike up Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire, a Thanksgiving service project and the recent Holiday Dazzle Light Parade in Putnam.
The scoutmaster said there’s more to come by the time the troop’s program ends in June, with Troop 21 preparing to go snowshoeing and winter camping, a shotgun-shooting program, a food drive for local needy people, a Paw Sox game and a fly fishing trip.
Lombardo noted that a Boy Scout troop’s operations are run by the boys, with the adults overseeing transportation and making sure everyone is healthy and safe.
“Our scouts made up this year’s schedule and are responsible for planning and carrying it out,” Lombardo said. “They decide what they want to do; they raise their own money to do it. Scouting builds self-reliance, responsibility and character that way. We’re very proud of our guys.”