Conversation with Mark Mahoney
Starting as a cub scout in kindergarten, Pierson senior Mark Mahoney has worked his way up the rankings and will become an Eagle Scout on Sunday, October 18. For readers unacquainted with the ins and outs of the Boy Scouts of America, Mahoney explains what it means to be an Eagle Scout and why he has stuck with the organization for over a decade.
How do you become an Eagle Scout?
A lot of people don’t realize the difficulty of becoming an Eagle Scout. What happens is that [over the years] you go up by rank and for each rank the difficulty of achieving the next rank increases. For the first few ranks you do basic skills like knot tying. You have to learn a certain set of knots to move up. There are requirements for each rank. You either have to know a certain set of skills or do a certain set of things like a project or holding leadership positions. For example, a senior patrol leader is a leadership position. You basically run the troop — though there is a lot of adult guidance. You lead the activities. You watch over the kids especially the younger scouts. You are in that position for a year.
Before you become an Eagle Scout you have to earn a Life Scout badge. You have to have a certain set of merit badges and have held a certain amount of leadership positions. I think you need around 21 badges. A certain number of the merit badges you are required to have and the others are elected ones. There is a badge for swimming and first aid. There are citizenship badges. I have a badge in sculpture. All the eagle badges are more work. There is a lot of writing and other general things you have to do. The biggest part of becoming an Eagle Scout is your Eagle Scout project. You are entirely in charge of it.
What was your project?
For mine, I built two aviaries at the Wildlife Rescue Center in Hampton Bays. They are intended for a red-tailed hawk and a horned owl. Personally, I am nature oriented. A lot of our scout projects are related to nature. A big part of the Boy Scouts is making sure nature stays the way it was found. The Wildlife [Rescue Center] was the closest center [of its kind in the area] and it is a not-for-profit organization.
First, you have to do a lot of fundraising after you get estimates of how much the project will cost. I did a car wash with the troop. I worked at Harbor Pets in town. They gave a generous amount of money for the work that we did.
I mainly used PVC piping for the structure and a wire screening to enclose it. We used PVC piping for the structures so they could more easily be broken down or moved. We added double doors. As we were building, the projects became very elaborate. They are for injured or rehabilitated animals. I did the original blueprints and later on I made more professional ones with the help of my scout master, Mr. Heine. I talked about the blueprints a lot with James Hunter who worked at the center.
Did your troop help you with the project?
I would safely say that nearly every member of the troop was involved. I have to speak very highly of the older scouts who helped this thing come together. The project was larger than I expected.
In our troop, [troop 455], we have 35 kids from 11-years-old to 17-years-old. A lot of the scouts are really young and in a way a bit of a handful, but it is nice to see the growth in the troop like that.
We really try to make everyone come together. We do a lot of activities to do that. In the summer we go to a camp [run by the Boys Scouts] that really stresses troop building to enhance troop chemistry. Last year, we did a ropes course and you had to use your entire troop to complete it. If one of you wasn’t able to do it then the whole troop couldn’t finish. If you don’t work together it wouldn’t get done.
How long have you been involved with Scouting?
I was a Cub Scout since kindergarten. I had always been involved and then as soon as I hit the end of fifth grade I moved into the Boy Scouts. Since we had a lot of older scouts at that time in the troop, I saw a lot of them as role models and people to aspire to be like.
Soon after I joined the Boy Scouts, I was able to participate in an Eagle project and right away I knew that was what I wanted.
So after you finish the project, what do you have to do next?
You still have to do a lot of paperwork which may be harder than building an aviary. On the Eagle application you have to write an essay about what you have done in the Boy Scouts and what you will do in the future. I brought the application to the council who went over it and then they sent it to an Eagle Scout Board for review. They did that in the beginning of June. They told me I was accepted right then and there [at the review] and then they have to send it to nationals.
Why did you stick with Boy Scouts for so long?
Well, in the beginning a lot of my friends were doing it. As you get older, it was more about the importance of being a role model. When you are a Boy Scout you see things through to the end. By being a Boy Scout it keeps you in the Boy Scouts. I still have great friends in the Boy Scouts and you know they are the people you can trust.
At a certain age you end up being the person that everyone looks up to. You feel great knowing that you help them with life lessons, trying to make these kids better in a lot of ways.