A Scout’s Honor
The concerns of most 16-year-old teenagers might involve thoughts around buying their first car, obtaining a driver’s license, and just beginning to think about college applications while juggling a social life, after-school activities, and good grades. Of all things, city government and the navigating the waters of City Councils, Parks and Recreation boards, and Planning and Zoning committees, are, most times, the least of any teenager’s concerns.
But, when you’re working towards your Eagle Scout rank like Jon Miller, of Hanover, city government might just be another part of your busy teenage life, after all.
Who is Jon Miller?
When you schedule an interview with a 16-year-old junior in high school at four in the afternoon, you don’t expect much more than your average teenager in a ballcap, t-shirt, and jeans. You may be expected to see the smile of one who is still in the afterglow of getting their driver’s license, or perhaps even come face-to-face with those familiar dark circles under the eyes of one who spends far too much time studying.
However, you don’t expect Jon Miller, who walks into your office in work boots, a ball-cap, a t-shirt, and jeans; looking far more like an accomplished farmer than a high school “kid.”
Miller, of Hanover, is a junior in high school. Typical of his peers, he isn’t quite sure about the entire college part of his life at the moment, but he is quite certain of one aspect of his life: he is determined to earn his Eagle Scout rank, and he’s almost got it.
When it comes to the Boy Scouts program, Miller has been a part of the organization since he was a kid; first starting in the program’s Cub Scouts, and then working his way up the organizational ladder from there. It’s always been “a part of his life.”
Eagle Scouts, however, is a whole other ball game. It is the highest achievement ranking in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) program, and was founded over 100 years ago. Roughly four percent of Boy Scouts are awarded the rank, and since the program’s conception, 2.5 million young men have earned the title, which is obtained through years of dedication, hard work, and a lengthy interviewing/review process.
The rank of Eagle Scout shows attributes like leadership and Scout Spirit, and has shown dedicated effort in earning at least 21 merit badges, which is typical of the program. The rank is earned when a Scout decides to lead and see through a service project – the Eagle Project – that demonstrates leadership and commitment to the duties of becoming a scout in the BSA program. Of course, once that service project has been completed, there is still a strenuous interviewing and review process.
For many, those projects involve working with their troop in community projects and volunteering efforts set to improve the community. However, for Miller of Troop 563 Hanover, the demands of the project stretch a bit more towards community than direct involvement with the troop – like, say, a “City Government level stretch.”
Miller’s project, from city government standards, may not be a challenging one per se. However, it’s been in the works for at least a handful of years. Miller’s involvement with the project itself has been almost a year, having started in December 2017.
His project? Design and craft welcome signs for four locations leading into the City of Hanover.
“It really began when my troop leader approached the Hanover Lions, looking for projects that might line up with the requirements of a service project [for Eagle Scouts],” Miller commented. “They’re always busy doing something, so it seemed like a good place to start.”
Among the projects suggested was the idea of getting city signs up, welcoming travelers to Hanover in at least four locations. After agreeing to the project, the true work began for Miller, who made his way before the Hanover City Council.
“At first, it was a lot of shuffling around,” Miller stated of his efforts with the city. “The Council sent me to Parks and Recreation, and then from there to Planning and Zoning and then back to the Council. There was a lot of speeches and inquiries and trying to plan meetings.”
On record, Hanover only had one city sign within the city limits. Miller’s project, however, would add another four signs to the outskirts of the city, letting motorists and guests to the area know that they’d entered city limits. Acquiring the supplies late last year, Miller’s mother, Rachel, had hoped that the project would be done by summer of this year. However, when you’re 16 and in school full-time and also working a job, time is something you don’t have much of.
“It’s like a full-time job outside of a full-time job,” Jon stated, “but it ebbs and flows depending on progress you make with the people you’re working with and how much time you put in.”
Working with people from Public Works and other departments within the Hanover city government ranks, Miller was able to decide where the best place would be to mount the signs, and what exactly they’d entail. From there, he worked to design and craft the signs, which consist of wood posts, stainless steel letters and panels, solar panels, and plastic sheets. In addition to the signs themselves, mounted below are all the organizations within the city, like the Lions, etc.
Work with Wright County was also involved, in areas like the Highway Department regarding the location of a sign, which is mounted along Rockford Road. The area was owned by the County, so Miller worked beside the Highway Department to make sure the area was clear to build on, which he commented was a different type of local government experience.
The Crow-Hassan Parks Reserve also worked with Miller regarding the location of one of the signs. While opposed initially, the Reserve ultimately cleared Miller’s idea, and “hopped on board” later on, as Miller shared. Overall, working with all the different departments and organizations taught Miller a lot of communication and organizational skills, as well as allowing for public speaking practice.
When asked what the project has taught him, Miller responds simply. “You learn how to lead a project that matters to not only one group of people, like the Scouts, but to a community. I learned the ropes of approaching city government and how the process of getting something done in the community goes.”
Among other things stated that he learned, Miller commented that being organic and flexible in suggestions and in the design phase was also a great lesson gained from the project.
Miller is in the last throes of his project, which includes finishing off the lights that illuminate the signs in night hours. He anticipates the project to be completed soon, “before the snow flies,” which his mother, Rachel, is excited for.
The four signs can be found in the following locations: C.R. 34 and Cadler Avenue NE, going into Hanover; C.R. 19 into Hanover from St. Michael’s 15th Street NE, which comes into Hanover from the metro side; C.R. 19 from Burschville, along the curve; and Rockford River Road and Divison Street NE (which is also Jensen Ave), not far from the corner.
Once the project is complete, Miller will begin the reviewing phase of his Eagle Scout pursuit. Once completed, and if found in favor, Miller will undergo a pinning ceremony, where he will be recognized and congratulated in his new rank.