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Teen’s Eagle Scout project makes navigating Hightstown High School easier

John O’Brien still remembers that “lost” feeling as a freshman at Hightstown High School, trying to find his way around the sprawling building.

So to ensure no one else would have that same feeling, John designed and built a set of directional signs to hang in the high school hallways.

The signs, which were installed last week, are part of John’s Boy Scouts of America Eagle Scout project. The 17-year-old, who will be a senior in September, belongs to Boy Scout Troop 59.

To reach the top rank of Eagle Scout, which has been achieved by 2 percent of eligible Boy Scouts since the rank’s inception in 1912, a Scout must come up with a project and carry it through to completion.

And that’s what John has done.

John, who is on the Hightstown High School swim team, was participating in a swim meet at North Brunswick Township High School when he noticed directional signs hanging in the hallways.

“I was thinking about Eagle Scout projects and I saw the directional signs. I thought that was a good idea for a project. It really caught my attention,” he said.

The directional signs will benefit anyone who visits Highstown High School – from freshmen to transfer students, parents, new teachers, substitute teachers and many others, John said.

Once John received approval for his project, he set out to put it into motion. He purchased the materials, which included plywood, stencils for the lettering, sandpaper and paint.

Then, he had to organize the younger Boy Scouts in the troop, along with volunteers, to build the signs. Work began in earnest in November and it was completed earlier this month.

“I thought it was just cutting boards, stenciling them, and painting them, and it wouldn’t be that bad. Then I got into the details, like the font size for the lettering. The devil is in the details,” John said.

While John has held leadership positions in Troop 59, carrying out this project was a challenge. Although he had learned to delegate tasks, he never had to take complete charge of a project.

Taking charge of the project meant John had to contact school officials. He had to arrange for the materials to be acquired, and then to lay out in detail how the project would go forward – what tasks each Boy Scout would undertake.

“When you are leading a project on your own, planning is huge. You have to coordinate with the younger Scouts and the volunteers, and you have to instruct them on what to do,” John said.

“I got more practice in delegating, and how clear I could make the instructions. It was really burned into my brain. I don’t think I would have learned this much until later, if I had not done this project,” he said.

John said it was a “really good” learning experience for the Boy Scouts. Some of the younger boys had never used a paint roller, while others did not know about the different grades of sandpaper – from very fine to coarse and gritty.

“I tried to make it a learning experience for them, too, for their Eagle Scout projects,” John said. He added that he learned a lot while he was helping older Boy Scouts in their Eagle Scout projects.

The Eagle Scout project is the culmination of many years spent in the Scouting program for John – from his Cub Scout days as a first-grader, to becoming a Boy Scout in sixth grade.

John comes from a family of Scouts. His father was a Boy Scout, and his sister was a Girl Scout. Many of his friends were joining Scouting, so he decided to do it, too.

“I enjoyed camping and survival skills, so I was excited to join. I enjoy Boy Scouts because it has provided me with a lot of new opportunities I don’t believe I could have experienced without Scouting,” he said.

As for his Eagle Scout project, John said he hoped it would make Highstown High School a better school and one that is easier to navigate for newcomers and visitors.

“Hightstown High School has been really good to me. Why not make it easier for the school and for families that visit the high school?” John said.

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