Earlier this fall, Wellspring was approached by Beverly High School Senior Sam Tabako looking for projects to help him obtain his Eagle Scout Rank. Having been a part of Scouts BSA since 2016 and in the Boy Scouts of America (for both boys and girls) since he was in first grade, obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout was his highest personal goal and ambition.
Becoming an Eagle Scout is the highest achievement or rank attainable in the Scouts BSA program of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). In order to obtain this prestigious rank, aspiring Eagle Scout candidates have to identify and manage a community service project from start to finish, and they must complete it before their 18th birthday. Designed to teach leadership skills, service to the community, and how to work hard, only four percent of Scouts have earned the rank since the program’s inception since 1911.
“Ever since I’ve been trying to rank up! An Eagle Scout isn’t the only road to success for young people, but it certainly is one, and a very respectable one.” – Sam Tabako
Tasked with maintaining the gardens property in West Gloucester, Wellspring’s Gardens Manager Jill Brown asked Sam to focus the project on improving Wellspring’s Tribute Garden. Jill and Sam also discussed the possibility of a Zen Garden in the back of the main house property so staff and visitors can walk the trail up to one of the most scenic views in Gloucester.
“Sam pictured the clearing area as place for staff to come and have a quiet place to sit because the work Wellspring does can be hard sometimes. We’re dealing with people’s trauma. We need to take care of ourselves as well. He was really excited about making the Zen Garden to help us do that,” Brown said. From there, Sam went to work, organizing a plan for logistics, volunteers, and donors.
“My eyes really lit up when she took me to this clearing and I saw it, and I thought, I can make something beautiful out of this space.” – Sam Tabako
“You could see the wheels turning, you could see he understood and had a plan to accomplish the project vision,” Brown said. According to Sam’s BSA mentor, something about Sam and the Zen Garden connected and that’s when he got hyper-focused on the project.
As the project lead, Sam secured donations of building materials from local vendors; planned all the project logistics to remove discarded brush; and recruited volunteers and coordinated transportation. Due to the leadership focus of the project, Sam couldn’t do any of the hands-on work, and was responsible for identifying volunteers and Scouts to certain tasks for both aspects of the project based on their ages and skill levels.
“He was so excited to be of service and felt like he was going to be able to provide a respite for the employees of Wellspring. For him, he thought, I can give value of the Zen Garden to the group!”
– Laurie LaBrie, Sam’s Scout Mentor
Over the course of two days, Sam led a group of more than 20 volunteers, including several members of his family, Wellspring staff, and local scouts ranging in age between 12-17 years old. Sam tasked the older scouts with the more complicated aspect of the project, including alterations to the playground structure, cutting wood for the Zen Garden platform, and removing heavy, thick tree trunks and brush; while the younger scouts cleared up the garden debris, brush, and other materials from the pathway and along the Tribute Garden.
As the project neared completion, Brown and Labrie noticed immediate changes in Sam’s demeanor and growth.
“He was so proud of what was happening, it was awesome,” Brown said, adding, “The parameters of what we said we wanted him to do—he just blew it away.”
Labrie agreed saying, “His confidence grew, his belief that he could lead grew. All of a sudden, he changed. It was an unbelievable effect on him. I was amazed to watch him grow! It fundamentally changed his beliefs, knowledge and skill sets.’
He learned so much in a short period of time with an end goal of really giving the employees of Wellspring something amazing. And he did it!” – Laurie LaBrie
When asked about what he learned personally about leadership, project execution and challenges that may arise, Sam said, “This project taught me a lot about persistence, and the importance of getting back up after you get struck down. I learned I have to be an assertive leader, and that I have to make sure people know what they are supposed to be doing. I also learned I lead best when I’m accomplishing a task with them.”
After completing the Tribute Garden restoration and Garden Zen project, the BSA Review Board granted Sam the Eagle Scout rank later this fall. Incredibly proud of the work his group accomplished, Tabako is also grateful for the invaluable life skills he learned, not only in project leadership, but in taking initiative, too.
While he pursues his post-secondary education goals, Sam is currently completing a collegiate-level internship at Merrimack College conducting research at their observatory, which he vigorously pursued —and impressively earned—at the high-school level. As he moves forward to his next steps in life, Sam is heavily focused on his internship and pursuing his dream of a career in astrophysics.
“I’m a space nerd through and through! I hope to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and study astrophysics to one day become an astrophysicist. It’s my life dream!”