- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Beach Elementary School may be 60 years old and heavily overpopulated, but one former student decided to renew and extend the building’s usable space.
Justin Byun, 15, a former Beach Elementary student and Eagle Scout candidate, decided to dedicate his Eagle Scout project to better his elementary school alma mater and create a productive outside learning environment for Beach’s current students.
“I really wanted to do a really largescale project, one that could really benefit those I did it for,” Byun said. “Beach Elementary is a very old school, and I knew there would be somewhere at Beach Elementary School that could use some work.”
His project, one of the largest his troop has ever done, transformed an outdoor courtyard at the school that had become overgrown and unkempt.
Over the course of three days this week, Byun and a team of volunteers worked to complete several projects to turn the space into a usable outdoor learning environment.
In addition to clearing the area of weeds and overgrown tree branches, Byun and his team built an outdoor patio with benches and a covering for teachers to bring their classrooms outside for lessons, a composting center, raised garden beds, a weather station and a numbered stone pathway.
“I hope that through my project the students will learn to value their education from a very young age, allow teachers to widen lesson plans and create a more vivacious atmosphere for student learning and to pass on to all scouts in my troop the importance of service in the community,” Byun wrote in a letter to various companies that donated their time and resources to help with the $3,500 project.
In addition to Byun, his parents, Alexis Lee and Joe McCall, and more than 40 Boy Scout volunteers and troop leaders, Byun received the help of 20 in- and out-of-county businesses that contributed food, project materials and monetary donations.
Mike Shisler, principal of Beach Elementary School, remembers Byun well from when the scout attended the school and participated on Shisler’s chess team. Shisler said many former Beach students have done Eagle Scout projects on the school’s nature trails, but he knew Byun wanted to do something different.
Though the school recently went through a county redistricting because of the high student population and is planned to undergo a complete replacement in 2021, as was presented to the members of the Calvert County Board of Education at their July 10 meeting, Shisler said Byun’s work will be enjoyed by a brand new cycle of elementary students.
“There are lots of kids that can benefit,” Shisler said about the project. “It’s a major undertaking.”
“Justin’s scope is tremendous,” Kevin Bissell, assistant scoutmaster of Troop 429, said. “He’s taken a virtually useless area and made it extremely useful. All the kids can use it.”
Bissell said Byun’s project exemplifies the lessons of the Boy Scouts, including charity, community and leadership.
But Byun said this project was more personal than simply providing a way for him to earn his Eagle Scout rank.
The incoming Northern High School junior moved to Calvert County from Severna Park when he was 5 years old. Korean was his first language, and he was coming from a private school environment.
“I felt very welcome here and at home,” Byun said. “I learned so much [at Beach Elementary], and I wanted to give back somehow. … I really wanted to push myself so I could get this done for myself and for the students and teachers.”
Byun began conceptualizing the project in April and met with Shisler and a teacher from every grade level at Beach Elementary to find out what needs the teachers had and how to best meet them. With the help of the businesses that donated resources, including Lawn Artists in Prince Frederick, which came to the site and helped the scouts build the brick patio, Byun was able to realize his ambitious goals.
“I was really shocked at how meaningful this was to even them, to be a part of this, and it made me feel like what I was doing was right, and it would be a success,” Byun said.