Eagle Scout Project Brings Picnic Tables and Much More to Middle Fork
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By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
APRIL 25, 2019 – Thanks to Ryan Porter, Middle Fork elementary now has spiffy new picnic tables out back, new benches at the school’s entrance, a freshly planted maple tree out front, and planters filled with flowers here and there.
Ryan, who is in the eighth grade at Kernersville Middle, took on the project to earn his Eagle Scout rank. Although the project, which grew as he went along, was a lot of work and required giving up precious Saturdays, he found it quite satisfying.
Asked whether he had any advice for others, he said, “Surround yourself with people who are willing to help you. That’s how I got the job done.”
Ryan estimates that, by the time the project was complete, 20 to 25 people – including his parents Mark and Lori Porter, fellow Scouts, friends who aren’t Scouts, members of his church, people at the school, and others – helped in one way or another.
Ryan chose Middle Fork because his mother is a teacher assistant there.
“I am very proud of him,” Lori Porter said. “I am very honored he chose where his mom works.”
Porter is also impressed that he completed his Eagle Scout project at the age of 14, when Scouts have until the age of 18 to complete it. As Ryan saw it, it would be great to get it done while he was in middle school so he could focus on other aspects of his life in high school.
After the Reich College of Education at Appalachian State established a partnership with Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, the school’s official name became Appalachian State University Academy at Middle Fork.
Amie Snow, the school’s Director of Curriculum and Instruction, worked with Ryan to coordinate the project.
“We are real grateful for what Ryan did for us,” Snow said.
Principal Tasha Hall-Powell and Assistant Principal Verschello Nelson also talked about how much they appreciate what Ryan did for the school.
It has meant a lot to the students, Hall-Powell said. “I think it is enhancing their learning environment.”
“I think it’s been great,” Nelson said. “You feel good about walking into a place that is beautiful.”
The Eagle Scout project started with the goal of providing the school with new picnic tables.
Over time, the old metal ones had deteriorated, and most had been removed. When Ryan came to the school to explore possible projects, those caught his attention.
After Ryan decided to focus on buying and assembling eight wood picnic table kits and applying finish to the tables, he let people at the family’s church – Main Street United Methodist in Kernersville – know about the project. Members there, along with other friends and neighbors, began contributing. Ryan also sold Boy Scout popcorn. He is a member of Troop 940, which is based at the church, and Ryan's share of the proceeds went to the project.
Lowe’s Home Improvement stores regularly offer discounts for such projects. After Ryan told Ken Moser, an assistant manager at the Lowe’s Home Improvement store in Kernersville, about the school and how the picnic tables would be used, Porter said, Moser added an additional discount.
Ryan had the kits delivered to his house so he and fellow scouts and others could work on them on Saturdays. Turning the garage into his workshop meant that the two cars normally parked there got the boot. Once the tables were finished, a squad of pickup truck owners from the church showed up and ferried the tables to the school on March 23.
After the tables were set up at Middle Fork, everything caught up with Ryan.
“I was pretty tired after that,” Ryan said. “It was definitely a challenge.”
It didn’t take long after the school week started for teachers and students to discover the tables and to start using them, Porter said.
The generous contributions and discounts meant that Ryan had money that he could use for other enhancements.
“The tree was Amie’s idea,” Porter said. “He had some extra money. She said, ‘Let’s get a tree.’”
As it turned out, they didn’t have to pay for the tree because Matt Hunter at New Garden Nursery in Greensboro ended up donating it, Porter said.
When first-grader Ana Sexton and her parents – Leroy and Bernadette Sexton – saw Ryan planting it, they came over and helped.
Seeing people at the school and the people in Ryan’s life contributing to the project in various ways was a real bonus, Snow said.
Snow said they are planning to put together a time capsule and place it by the tree.
With money still available, Ryan was able to add even more to the project, including a flower display by the school’s sign at the road and two benches at the entrance to the school. He also placed a rain gauge at the entrance.
Ryan has been a Scout since he joined the Cub Scouts at the age of 6. At the time, he was attracted by the prospect of camping and participating in other adventures. Over time, he became more interested in the leadership aspects of scouting.
Along the way, he earned lots of merit badges. Asked whether any of the badges presented a particular challenge, he said, “This is going to sound crazy, but Basketry.”
He was used to working with hammers and wrenches and other tools. So merit badges that required those skills were more straightforward. Trying to weave baskets and a stool were another matter.
“It is crazy how hard that was.”
Ryan’s other interests include playing baseball – he’s a pitcher – and reading, especially history. He is fascinated by World War I and World War II and how the world of today could have been so different.
Ryan is not yet sure where he wants to go to college. With the connection with Middle Fork, Appalachian State is definitely on the list.
Ryan and his mother said he appreciated how much Snow and others at the school helped him with the project.
“They have been phenomenal,” Porter said.
Porter and Snow have been friends for a while, Snow said, and she has enjoyed watching Ryan grow into the person he is today.
“Watching him do these great things is amazing,” Snow said.