Scouts learn to Leave No Trace on the places they explore.
But what about the metaphorical trace Scouts might leave behind?
That was on Nuruddin Abdul-Rashid’s mind when he started planning his Eagle Scout service project.
“At this point of my life, I was really grappling with the idea of legacy,” he says. “What will be my impact on this world? How I could leave it a better place?”
To understand his project, which Nuruddin called Bee Crossing, it helps to start not with the physical, construction-based part of the project but with the project’s three goals:
- Improve a stretch of land near a local elementary school in a way that enhances a sense of community
- Educate young people about the world around them
- Increase safety
Nuruddin and his volunteers accomplished this by designing and installing 16 wooden posts along a forested pathway. Each post has solar-powered LED lighting to illuminate the path at night (while charging during the day) and an informational plaque describing an animal or plant found in the area. The plaques also have a QR code, allowing visitors to scan to learn more.
“Lastly, I wanted to give it a name — Bee Crossing — just like the trails at a Scout camp would have,” Nuruddin says. “It would help those who lived nearby to refer to the location easier. And in addition, would help spur a common ground between the locals — a place that’s special, just to them.”
We wanted to know other lessons Nuruddin took from his project. So we chatted with the 18-year-old Eagle Scout from Scouts BSA Troop 114 and Venturing Crew 114 of Herndon, Va., part of the National Capital Area Council.
Learning from near-failure
If you asked around town, people would tell you the path was the school’s property. Or maybe it belonged to the town. Or, actually, nobody really knows.
Not wanting to take chances, Nuruddin asked the town who owned the land on which he wanted to create Bee Crossing.
“They responded with essentially, ‘since we can’t find any records of us owning it, it will default to the school,'” Nuruddin says. “Thinking that was a done deal, we proceeded to get the signatures for the project and press on.”
But just before construction was to begin, the school hit the pause button. They were concerned that the project was a liability since they didn’t have any proof they owned the land.
The delay put the project in limbo for about a month. Nuruddin got a lesson in local politics as he worked with Herndon Mayor Sheila Olem and the Fairfax County Public Schools to resolve the problem.
He also learned the whole issue could’ve been avoided if he had contacted the local utility provider in the first place, because they have a record of who owns what.
“Lesson learned: If you ever need to dig a hole but don’t know who owns the land, ask the people who let you dig the holes,” Nuruddin says.
Five other lessons learned about Eagle projects
1. Take good notes
The brain isn’t built to store every piece of information it encounters in a given day. That makes taking notes essential.
“Writing something down helps you to commit it to memory,” Nuruddin says. “I scribble down as much as possible and make drawings — because that works for me visually.”
2. Document every step
Take pictures and videos, and write down your thought process and what you learned. Do that last one as close to “in the moment” as you can.
“It’s very helpful when trying to write up a report later or when revisiting it later on, as it establishes a mindset or provides proof and evidence of something,” Nuruddin says.
3. Accept help
As the construction phase of the project began, Nuruddin wanted to pick up some tools and get his hands dirty. While he did plenty of manual labor, focusing too much on a small part of the work would mean losing sight of the bigger picture.
He needed to guide, to answer questions, to solve problems and to make sure everyone was hydrated.
“I was essentially running all over the place to ensure it all ran smoothly,” he says, “because that was my job.”
Whether in a class project or Eagle project, it can be difficult to trust others to do their part. But when you do, it makes the experience better for everyone.
4. Communicate and listen
As the leader, making the process clear for your team ensures that the end goal meets your vision.
But having a vision doesn’t mean closing yourself off to new ideas. Ask your volunteers for input and determine what aspects of the project best match their skills.
“It’s a fact that somebody will be better than somebody else at something,” he says. “By allowing people to work in their expertise, with the creative freedom of a vision, you enable the growth of a better project.”
5. Become a scheduling expert
Completing an Eagle project as a teenager is tough because there are approximately 1,000 other demands on your time.
Nuruddin suggests giving yourself ample time to complete your project — meaning schools, sports and social events can coexist with your work.
He used weekly check-ins to keep himself on track and created a detailed weekly schedule.
“The best habit you can learn as a youth is doing things consistently for long periods of time,” he says. “Slow and steady wins the race, because it’s easy to get burnt out going too fast all at once.”
Leaving a legacy
As he walks the Bee Crossing path today, Nuruddin likes to think about the difference he might make in the world.
“I am not perfect,” he says, “but I hope the journey I make in this world will inspire others to also strive for goodness.”
Nuruddin is studying cybersecurity in hopes of becoming a penetration tester — someone who creates a simulated cyberattack on a computer system to evaluate the system’s security. But that’s the plan for now.
“I’ll be a different person in 10, five and even just one year,” he says. “So, instead of a career, I will say what lies next for me is trying to understand what makes life meaningful and how to live happily in humility.”
Nuruddin’s dad, Rashid, said he was proud that his son seems to have taken the transformative lessons of Scouting to heart.
“I know I’m your father, but I have to say, you really seemed to have picked up on all the lessons and objectives that becoming an Eagle Scout is meant to be,” Rashid says. “I’m proud of you.”