From friends to Eagle Scouts: Strong bond leads to celebrating top rank together


It has been a busy time for Ponte Vedra Beach Troop 288, which recently had four from the troop earn the rank of Eagle Scout from Scouting America.

The four Eagle Scouts are Gavin Lavallee, Ethan Lopez, Nash Kersting and Lucian Slayden grew up in Scouts together and it has been a part of their life since elementary school.

They have developed a strong friendship over the years, and so strong that they each insisted on waiting to hold their court of honor until they could all take part in it together as a group.

Their commitment to each other is not surprising to their families and those who know them well, as they have forged those bonds having spent time camping, cooking and hiking together countless times.

Some of the adventures they have done together include sailing at Sea Base in the Florida Keys and skiing and hiking for two weeks in Philmont, New Mexico.

Eagle Scout is the highest rank in Boy Scouts of America and requires years of self-discipline and work to achieve.

One of the final steps to earning the rank of Eagle is to design and lead the execution of a service project.

Another aspect that the scouts shared was that each of their Eagle projects benefited local churches, which according to Olivia Slayden, mother of Lucien Slayden, underscores scouting’s commitment to duty to God as well as the community.

“The projects also demonstrated scouting’s continued focus on getting our future leaders outdoors and contributing to the well-being of their surroundings,” Olivia Slayden said.

Gavin Lavallee primed, painted and refurbished an old shed at the Lord of Life Lutheran Church.

His efforts helped to waterproof and preserve the longevity of the shed. In addition, he also built a paver ramp to help with accessibility, allowing for wagons to be rolled up the ramp and stored more effectively.

Lavallee recently graduated from Nease High School and plans to major in electrical engineering with a minor in mechanical engineering at the University of Central Florida in the fall.

Ethan Lopez planned and led the construction of a series of three benches along a path that runs around a lake behind St. John Paul II Catholic Church.

The benches offer a great opportunity for parishioners walking the path to relax, reflect and pray.

Ethan is also a recent Nease graduate and is also headed to the University of Central Florida where he will study aerospace engineering.

Nash Kersting planned, designed, and managed the installation of a 20- by 30-foot irrigated, raised garden bed for St. Francis in-the-Field Episcopal Church’s Little Flowers Preschool.

He worked with the director of the preschool and senior warden of the church to fulfill their wish of creating an outdoor space for the preschoolers to learn about and enjoy growing vegetables and flowers.

The project involved six scouts, 10 adults and culminated in over 192 hours of labor.

Nash attends Ponte Vedra High School and is part of the International Business Academy. He will begin his senior year in August.

Slayden undertook the planning, and led the construction of, two flagstone semicircles that now frame the path leading to St. Francis in-the-Field’s memorial garden.

He also installed benches at the center of each semicircle, creating a place for rest and contemplation to help enhance the beauty and tranquility of the garden.

Slayden, a recent graduate of Nease High School, will be attending the University of Florida as a business administration and management major this fall.