From Tying Knots to Building Bridges: The Transition from Boy Scout to Eagle Scout

Courtesy+of+Carl+Valdes.+Carl+Valdes+and+his+friends+start+to+work+on+the+new+and+improved+foot+bridge+on+Mount+Tamalpais.++
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From Tying Knots to Building Bridges: The Transition from Boy Scout to Eagle Scout

Courtesy of Carl Valdes. Carl Valdes and his friends start to work on the new and improved foot bridge on Mount Tamalpais.

Courtesy of Carl Valdes. Carl Valdes and his friends start to work on the new and improved foot bridge on Mount Tamalpais.

Courtesy of Carl Valdes. Carl Valdes and his friends start to work on the new and improved foot bridge on Mount Tamalpais.

Courtesy of Carl Valdes. Carl Valdes and his friends start to work on the new and improved foot bridge on Mount Tamalpais.

Evelyn Bailey

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For senior Jake Nordstrom, what was intended to be just a trip to visit a baseball team in Cuba in the summer of 2018 turned into a defining moment of high school. Returning with the inspiration to fly the Cuban high school baseball team to Marin for 10 days was the catalyst for Jake’s ambitious, long-term Eagle Scout project.

An Eagle Scout is the highest ranking of all scouts, and according to Scouting Magazine, only 6 percent of eligible Boy Scouts earned the Eagle Scouts award in 2014. Part of attaining this rank involves the completion of a project designed to benefit the community and impart leadership skills.

Jake and senior Carl Valdes have been Boy Scouts since the Cub stage, which begins around age 5 or 6. Since then, they have advanced to the pinnacle of the Scouts program with Eagle Scout status. Eagle Scout projects aim to demonstrate real-world skills and are varied in nature, size, and difficulty. Valdes benefited the most from the hands-on work required by his project.

To become an Eagle Scout, Valdes spent three months restoring a footbridge on Mount Tamalpais earlier this year, allowing for safer and easier trail access.

“I’ve learned a lot of skills you don’t really learn in school, survival skills, and first aid. It’s a lot of fun to get literally a breath of fresh air,” Valdes said.  

Valdes explained that the purpose of his project was to secure a safe way for older hikers to cross the ravine without injuring themselves. Most of the supplies were donated to him by the Marin Water District, and he also received permission from them to rebuild the bridge. Valdes congregated with a group of his friends who helped volunteer in the restoration.

“This bridge was built purely by me and my friends. Seeing the lake and two big cross beams, and then, three hours later, seeing this bridge that we’ve bolted down ready for use, and just seeing everyone’s face after we nailed that last nail in—it was really satisfying,” Valdes said.

Seeking a similar sense of fulfillment, Jake developed a vision for his Eagle Scout project that not only included transporting the Cuban team to Marin, but also restoring Endress Field at Redwood. Jake knew he wanted to focus his project on his favorite sport: baseball.

“I wanted to do a project that combined baseball and my community, because those are two things that are really important to me,” Jake said.

While pursuing their Eagle Scouts projects, Jake and Valdes had to think of an idea that would not only fulfill the basic requirements of creating and executing a project, but also achieve a community goal in doing so. According to Jake, when there is a project that is adequate, but does not hold significant value, it’s called a “build a bench project.”

“Somebody will go to a park,…build a bench and dedicate it to their grandfather, and no one ever uses it. I didn’t want to have a ‘build a bench’ project. I didn’t want something ordinary,” Jake said.

Jake’s efforts to restore Endress Field depended on volunteers, who assisted in the manual labor needed for the project.  

“We made new cubbies, painted dugouts, made new bat racks, new helmet racks and repainted the bleachers,” Jake said. “The whole process for the restoration and cleanup took about three weeks of prep, with around 75 people to help out throughout the four weeks in total.”

Jake and his mother, Candice Nordstrom, also flew to Cuba a second time over spring break last April. He developed a personal connection to the players and their families while playing baseball, and noticed their worn-down equipment, with bats and baseballs wrapped in electrical tape. He initiated meetings to discuss possible plans of flying the team to Marin, and since then has been working to raise money and obtain visas.

“Raising enough money to bring the Cuban team here comes in two sub-plans: if the U.S. Embassy [in Cuba] opens, then it’s around $27,000 … If they don’t open, we have to fly them through another country and get visas through that country, so it’s double the price, around $50,000,” Jake said.

Jake is hoping to have the Cuban team in Marin by next summer. However, a significant challenge is that the U.S. embassy in Cuba is understaffed, and giving the baseball team visas is a very low priority.

To fundraise for the trip, Jake has been advertising on his website and created a GoFundMe. He has raised $15,000 so far and plans to continue.

Candice Nordstrom, Jake’s mother, has watched her son’s perspective on Boy Scouts develop as he saw how the skills he was taught can influence not only himself, but his community.

“After a while, he really understood. [He said], ‘Wow I can utilize [Boy Scout skills] to make a difference,’ and he really got it. At about the time he was a sophomore, he really understood that he was doing it for a good reason rather than just being a Boy Scout and hiking, camping and fishing,” Candice said.

Courtesy of Carl Valdes. Carl Valdes and his friends work together on the new footbridge on Mount Tamalpais.

Courtesy of Carl Valdes. Carl Valdes and his friends work together on the new footbridge on Mount Tamalpais.

Courtesy of Carl Valdes. Working hard, Carl Valdes and his friends hold a plank and drill in bolts.

Courtesy of Carl Valdes. Working hard, Carl Valdes and his friends hold a plank and drill in bolts.

Courtesy of Carl Valdes. Finishing up last touches Carl valdes and friends finish up his eagle scouts project.

Courtesy of Carl Valdes. Finishing up last touches Carl valdes and friends finish up his eagle scouts project.

Working hard, Jake Nordstrom and his friends help clean the freshman baseball field.

Working hard, Jake Nordstrom and his friends help clean the freshman baseball field.

Nordstrom and his friends paint wood boxes on the bleachers to revamp Endriss field

Nordstrom and his friends paint wood boxes on the bleachers to revamp Endriss field

Jake Nordstrom sits posing in front of the new and improved baseball field after 4-5 hours of work.

Courtesy of Carl Valdes. Carl Valdes and his friends start to work on the new and improved foot bridge on Mount Tamalpais.

Courtesy of Carl Valdes. Carl Valdes and his friends start to work on the new and improved foot bridge on Mount Tamalpais.

Jake Nordstrom sits posing in front of the new and improved baseball field after 4-5 hours of work.

Jake Nordstrom sits posing in front of the new and improved baseball field after 4-5 hours of work.

About the Writer
Evelyn Bailey, Author

Evelyn Bailey is a junior at Redwood High school and is a Reporter for Redwood Bark. She enjoys being outside and traveling with friends and family. Evelyn...

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From Tying Knots to Building Bridges: The Transition from Boy Scout to Eagle Scout