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Florham Park Eagle Scout Discusses Service, Commitment, and Gardening

Nov 12, 2022 01:47PM ● By Alexander Rivero Staff Writer

Peter Paulson, Troop 8 Assistant Scout Master and James Dwyer. Paulson was Dwyer’s’ Eagle Scout Counselor.

James Dwyer, senior at Morris Catholic, fencing and rugby star, and a member of Boy Scout Troop 8 based out of Ogden Memorial Presbyterian Church on Main Street in Chatham, recently helped expand a community garden for his town of Florham Park. The deed, which earns him the coveted Eagle rank among the Boy Scouts, is the latest in a long line of service projects and tasks in the 18-year-old’s seven-year career in the organization. 

James first joined the Boy Scouts at the age of 11 at the behest of his cousin Patrick, whose enthusiasm James found contagious. Patrick gushed over what he was learning.

“He was telling me all about the cool stuff he could do, the new skills he was learning,” says James. 

The Boy Scouts reward its members with merit badges when they show competence in their acquisition of new skills. There are more than 135 different merit badges available to the Scouts, from astronomy to first aid, and they can train towards them at any time. To earn one’s Eagle, a Boy Scout has to first earn 21 badges, including what the organization calls the Silver Badges—fitness, emergency preparedness, cooking, and personal management. 

“The Boy Scouts aren’t necessarily training you,” James says. “They’re exposing you to each of these disciplines, showing them to you so that you can get a feel for them. They’re experiences, and they each deepen you as a person. Each merit badge requires a good deal of work.” 

Over the course of the last seven years, James has enjoyed his time with Troop 8, and when asked to pick out one memory that trumps the others, he is quick to respond. 

“Impossible to pick just one. There are just too many. My experience here has been very social, and I’ve learned a lot of great things.” 

He adds, seconds later after a short pause, “But if there is one experience that I’ll remember whenever I look back to my time here, it’ll be the Northeast hike, and our crew chief joking around with us as we asked him to tell us how many more miles to reach our campsite.” 

His proudest moment is, no doubt, the Troop’s trip up to Northern Tier in Manitoba. 

“We prepared the trip for two months, and it was a thrill to finally head up to Manitoba and canoe through the lakes, fishing, and being out there. I’ll never forget that.” 

James working hard on building the composting bins at the garden

 To become an Eagle Scout, James planned and helped build a series of compost bins for the local community garden in Florham Park. 

“At Volunteer Memorial Park on Elm Street, there is a community garden that people use all the time, but the problem was that it lacked a place for people to come and put their compost. So I decided to make a bigger one, one fit for a community garden.” 

James sites the paperwork as the most difficult task in completing the project, far bigger and more taxing on him than any of the physical labor required to put it all together. The project in its entirety was a rite of passage for every prospective Eagle Scout—namely, leading a group in a community project. 

“Looking back,” James says, “it all went by so fast. When you’re 18, you age out. And I remember my first day here still.” 

James has advice for any kids thinking about joining the Boy Scouts. 

“Do it. Go in. Try it, and if it doesn’t suit you, then you have no obligation to go through with it. It’s not for everyone. But, the flip side is that there is something in the Boy Scouts for everyone, and no matter what you do you’ll make friends.”

Now that he is getting ready to enter a new chapter of his life, James says he is looking forward to taking welding classes at Morris County Vocational Tech. He loves the craft of welding itself, and has a brother who is a welder in the Navy. 

As for the future of the Boy Scouts, James says he is cautiously optimistic for the organization as a whole, and fully optimistic for his local Troop 8. 

“A few bad apples can ruin a good thing for everyone,” he says, “but I think the organization is in a good position to thrive. There is just so much to learn in this organization.”