Eagle scout

Luke Barry (right) takes part in his Eagle Scout ceremony recently in Morrison, Ill. Scoutmaster Steve Gatz is on the left.

Perseverance, a project and paperwork — a lot of paperwork.

That’s just some of what it took for Luke Barry to become one of the 4 percent of all scouts who achieve the rank of Eagle Scout.

When he decided in the third grade that he’d become an Eagle Scout just like his Uncle Joe, Barry had no idea the commitment that would be required for him to attain Boy Scouts of America’s highest rank.

After becoming an Eagle Scout, Barry, 18, of Morrison, Ill., realized that it’s more than just a rank, it’s one of his proudest achievements.

“I realized that it’s actually something very hard to earn,” said the Morrison High School senior and member of Troop 96.

Barry was honored Feb. 22 during an Eagle Court of Honor ceremony at First Presbyterian Church in Morrison. It was a ceremony that he planned as part of the requirements for becoming an Eagle Scout.

Barry joined Boy Scouts as a third-grader in Morrison. Along the way, he learned to start fires, camp out and become a lifeguard. And always he had in the back of his mind that he’d become an Eagle Scout just like his Uncle Joe.

It wasn’t until the age of 15, when Barry got to the rank of First Class, that he realized he had a lot of work ahead of him to become an Eagle Scout.

There are many requirements, including holding certain leadership positions within the troop, earning 21 merit badges, meeting with the Eagle Review Board and completing a service project.

For the required service project, Barry chose to build three purple martin birdhouses to help control the insect population in an eco-friendly way. Two of the birdhouses were installed at Morrison-Rockwood State Park last summer and a third at a Whiteside County farm.

“I put in 40 hours for my project, not counting all the research,” Barry said.

Including time donated by scouts and other volunteers, 111 hours total were logged. Added to that was time Luke spent on paperwork, soliciting funding and contacting scout leaders and merit badge counselors.

He began working on his service project at the end of the summer of 2007. His first idea was to build benches to install in the cemetery, until he learned of city regulations that would have made the project difficult.

His second idea involved natural ways to control insect population at Morrison-Rockwood State Park.

“Bats and purple martins were the most popular,” Barry said.

Encouraging more bats to live at the park was out of the question because there was a rabies scare at the time, he said. Some insect-eating purple martins already lived at the park, so Barry decided to build more houses to encourage a larger colony.

Like any good housing developer, Barry researched housing designs that would encourage the desired tenants to move in. He researched designs for purple martin houses, and then combined two of his favorites.

The houses each have room for 96 purple martins, plus a lip around the edge to encourage the maximum number of birds to perch. Luke enjoys math and found it interesting that six purple martins fit in a tiny room 6 inches tall, 6 inches wide and 6 inches deep. He connected each level so that it can be easily taken apart by park staff every year for cleaning.

Although Barry put in plenty of hours to complete the project and the paperwork, he makes sure to credit those who helped.

“When it came to the actual building, my grandpa Bob Brandon helped a lot. He’s really into woodworking,” he said.

Mike Challand, who manages Morrison-Rockwood, helped Luke secure funding.

“Mike liked the idea from the start. He even tried to get it fully funded and eventually did, using habitat restoration funds,” Barry said.

From Barry’s list of four sites, Challand chose two: one at the north end of the dam, the other at the south end of the campground. The birdhouses were installed in May 2008.

“Within a week, they were checking out the house,” Barry said, adding that it will be two to three years before purple martins actually move into the new birdhouses.

The project cost about $250, of which Luke paid about $100. Blackhawk Lumber donated two sheets of plywood and Morrison True Value Hardware gave nails and glues, plus discounts on other supplies.

Scouts working to achieve the rank of Eagle must get other volunteers involved. Barry relied on volunteers to help him along every step of the way, from research to installation of the birdhouses.

In addition to learning about purple martins and building birdhouses, Luke said he learned a lot about time management and working with volunteers.

“I learned that volunteers are amazing. They have a tendency to work hard,” Luke said.

Scouts involved included Drew Screnock, Kyle Hess, Seth Buckwalter, Christen Ufkin, Alex Ernst, Nick Kaufman, Josh Screnock, Jordan McGarvey and August Ufkin and Leader Dean Ufkin.

Arlyn Hayen, an assistant scout master, “helped with everything” along the way to Eagle, Barry said.

Hayen said Barry is not only a good scout who was involved in outings and earned merit badges, he is also a good student and “very good boy.”

“We would like to have all boys be Eagle, but the boy has to want to do it himself,” Hayen said. “It’s something like being the top person in your class.”

Eagle Scouts can stay involved in scouting by helping out at the troop level, or choosing one of a number of positions.

“Luke might some day want to be a scoutmaster,” Hayen said.

Barry is now a scout leader, which means he is responsible for other scouts on campouts and will help others work on their Eagle projects.

There’s more to Eagle than most people think, said Scoutmaster Steve Gatz

“It’s not just going out and doing a project. It’s several years of leadership positions in the troop,” Gatz said.

R. Joe Brandon, Luke’s uncle who in 1985 also earned his Eagle Scout rank in troop 96 under then Scoutmaster Arlyn Hayen, participated in the ceremony and said “I am so proud of Luke that he attained the rank of Eagle Scout. Troop 96 has a history of being a great place for young men who are interested in bettering themselves while having a great time and learning skills that will last them a lifetime.”

In addition to working hard at scouting, Barry has worked at Happy Joe’s Pizza in Morrison for three years, detassles corn during the summer and writes articles about swimming for the Whiteside New Sentinel. He swims as a member of the Morrison Mustangs, and is treasurer of Key Club, a high school group committed to community service.

Barry is in the top 10 percent of his class at Morrison High School, with a current GPA of 3.875. After graduating this spring, he plans to study engineering at either Bradley University or University of Illinois.

To younger scouts working toward scouting’s highest rank, Barry has this advice:

“Stick with your troop, don’t drop out. Perseverance is what helps you the most,” he said.

For more information about Boy Scouts of America and the rank of Eagle Scout, visit www.scouting.org.

Dorothy de Souza Guedes is a former Clinton Herald staff writer.