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Troop 161 welcomes new Eagle Scouts

Eight young men from Shoreham-Wading River and Riverhead high schools were honored at a ceremony June 1 at St. John the Baptist Church in Wading River for attaining the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest rank awarded by the Boy Scouts of America.

The eight are among the 58 members of Shoreham-based Troop 161 and were commended by local officials during the ceremony for their hard work and commitment. Becoming an Eagle Scout requires climbing the ranks; spending three to six months in troop leadership positions; earning 21 merit badges, each of which can take up to eight months to acquire; and successfully completing a community service project.

Only 4% to 6 % of Boy Scouts ever achieve Eagle status, said Jane Sherman, Troop 161’s committee chair.

“We’ve had over 104 Eagle Scouts in our troop’s history, since 1958,” she said. “Our troops are fairly distinguished in that the program that we offer provides more than ample opportunity.”

Troop 161 has about 30 assistant scoutmasters, whereas most troops average five or six. What this does, Ms. Sherman explained, is increase the number of available outdoor activities and provide a better scoutmaster-Scout ratio.

“The program overall teaches them outdoor skills, it teaches business skills, it teaches life skills. It opens up doors and lets them try new things,” she said. 

Ms. Sherman said the boys often discover new hobbies and career goals through Scouting.

The troop’s newest Eagle Scouts are Eric Di Lisio, John German and Ronan O’Toole of Shoreham-Wading River High School, all 18, and Riverhead High School students Hunter Pozgay, 18; Matthew Sherman, 17; Erich Fuhrmann, 17; Jacob Raynor, 17; and Joseph Pozgay. All were required to complete their Eagle projects before turning 18, at which point they age out of Scouting and can no longer pursue that achievement. 

Though Boy Scouting officially starts at age 11, the eight newest Eagle inductees have been together since they were roughly 6-year-old Tiger Cubs.

“With this particular group, I was their Tiger Leader, so I was with them from the beginning,” Ms. Sherman said. “When you see these boys go through what they go through and do what they do, you get to know them and you get to see them turn from little boys into fine young men.”

Scouts can only begin to pursue Eagle status after becoming Life Scouts and serving actively in one or more positions of responsibility. Prospective Eagle Scouts can then begin to “plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, school or community,” according to a brochure distributed at the ceremony. 

“They’re doing this concurrently with everything they’re doing within their Scout unit, all of their responsibilities at home, at school and everywhere else. It’s quite a lot of work,” Ms. Sherman said.

Lisa Pozgay, Troop 161’s Eagle coach, said the boys are far from average, describing them as “outstanding.”

“They’re well-rounded. They’re in sports, they’re in Boy Scouts, they’re in religion. They’re constantly paying it forward,” she said.

For his Eagle project, Eric Di Lisio created a path that makes it easier to access Section 28 at Calverton National Cemetery. With assistance from the cemetery’s maintenance director, local contractors, fellow Scouts and friends, Eric cleared the overgrowth and used pavers to construct a path that is 60 feet long and four feet wide. 

John German created a similar walkway that leads from site No. 71 to the cemetery’s main roadway, with the intent of helping veterans and families visit loved ones’ graves. The site’s previous access point was one long walk down a dirt path. John also added mulch and shrubs to border the 26-by-4-foot stone walkway.

Ronan O’Toole assembled 12 bat houses and installed them around his high school to help control populations of mosquitoes and other disease-carrying pests by encouraging bats to make homes and nest at select locations on the campus. Ronan completed the assembly, painting and installing work with the help of other troop members and labor and materials donated by local businesses.

Inspired by his love for animals and by his own rescue dog at home, Hunter Pozgay built a dog agility course for the Town of Riverhead Animal Shelter. The course is intended to keep pups busy and stimulate their minds while they wait for their “forever” homes. Hunter’s fellow Scouts and friends helped him build and paint six sections of the agility course: an A-frame, wave poles, a pause table, a bar jump, a seesaw and a hoop jump.

Matthew Sherman created eight prayer cubicles for Our Lady Queen of Apostles Regional Catholic School in Center Moriches, where he attended grammar school. 

“I actually started my project about three years ago, at the end of eighth grade,” he said. “When I look at my first draft versus what it actually ended up becoming, it’s almost completely different.” Matthew, who is Ms. Sherman’s son, said the project was a learning and growing experience for him. He created a 3D computer-aided design, online, which he then had a furniture company produce using his dimensions. Matthew’s fellow Scouts helped him stain and sand the units, and then delivered them to the school.

“It’s not just the three years where I was working on Eagle Scout,” Matthew said of his accomplishment. “I’ve been involved in Scouting for 11 years now, so it was always the end goal, and to finally achieve it was an amazing feeling.”

Erich Fuhrmann focused on the Robert S. Reid Community Center in Shoreham. Recognizing the need for raised planting beds and benches there, especially for older-generation and handicapped gardeners, Erich built two raised planting beds and put together two benches. 

As a way of improving his parish, Jacob Raynor worked to beautify St. John the Baptist’s lower parking lot. He created a new garden for the placement of a neglected statue of the Virgin Mary, cleared out underbrush, brambles and overgrown ivy and pushed back dirt that had covered multiple parking spaces. The area was cleared of large rocks and long tree limbs, and dozens of new trees were planted. Jacob also helped install an underground irrigation system to help establish the plantings and made the crosswalk leading to the church more accessible by removing a section of fence that was blocking it.

Joseph Pozgay’s project honored Troop 161 member Andrew McMorris, who was killed at age 12 by a drunk driver while hiking with the troop in October. Joseph built a brick memorial walkway in front of a garden that was unveiled in June and constructed by troop members in honor of their fallen friend. As part of his project, which took about six months to complete, Joseph replanted a tree and surrounded it with red gravel stones in the shape of a ribbon signifying Mothers Against Drunk Driving. He sold over 200 memorial bricks for the walkway at either $50 or $75 a piece, depending on size. Town of Brookhaven Parks and Recreation employees helped him place a cement slab for the bricks.

Said Joseph, “I got the idea from a previous Eagle Scout who was in our troop, Ryan Ledda. He did a memorial project for one of the kids who died [in 2014] on the football field at Shoreham High School, Thomas Cutinella. I got the inspiration from that and really, I just wanted to show the Shoreham community and give back to the McMorris family and basically tell everybody who he was and what he meant to us.”

Joseph said Boy Scouts is ultimately about coming together as one people.

“We’re not separated from each other,” he said. “We’re all a family.”

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Photo caption: Eight young men from Shoreham-Wading River and Riverhead high schools were honored at a June 1 ceremony for attaining Eagle Scout, the highest rank in Boy Scouting.  From left: John German, Ronan O’Toole, Joseph Pozgay, Matthew Sherman, Jacob Raynor, Hunter Pozgay, Erich Fuhrmann and Eric Di Lisio.  (Lisa Pozgay photo)