Paying it backward

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When Adam Ryan and Seth Bradshaw were looking for projects that would help them to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, scouting’s highest honor, they went back in time.

Not literally, of course, but figuratively, to their roots at Skyridge Middle School.

Ryan, 18 and Bradshaw, 17, contacted former teacher John Condon, who in turn alerted teacher Gayle Cooper, who heads up the school garden, to see if she could find some projects for the teens.

“I always have projects to get done,” she said. “We needed somewhere out here for the kids to sit during lunch, and we are also trying to attract native birds to the garden.”

So, she asked the boys to construct arbors, birdhouses and benches.

Since there were some fir trees to be thinned out on the school grounds, Cooper procured the lumber needed for the projects free of charge. Lutz Hardware of Camas donated the materials.

“It’s been delightful working with Adam and Seth,” Cooper said. “They really exceeded my expectations in terms of delving into the project on their own. It is nice to see students come here and ‘pay it backward.'”

Ryan, a senior, and Bradshaw, a junior, both attend Camas High School, where they participate in track, cross country and are National Honor Society students, as well as members of Boy Scout Troop 499.

“When I was starting up and looking for projects, Skyridge was my go-to place,” Ryan said. “The fact that there was already an idea here for me was a huge bonus.”

Added Bradshaw, “I was looking for something to do and this seemed like a good place to get it done.”

Both projects included planning, design, meetings and finally, construction.

Bradshaw, who built four birdhouses, was surprised by how challenging certain aspects of the project became.

“I thought it was going to be easier than it was,” he said. “Constructing the angles with the roof pieces was very intricate, and I had to go through several test runs to get everything right.”

According to Ryan, the amount of preparation that went into building the benches and arbors was unexpected.

“Even a little thing took a while,” he said. “It’s been the same with my senior project, too. I really learned how to work out the details and problem solve with this one.”

Bradshaw noted that he discovered the importance of time management.

“It took longer than expected but I enjoyed getting to work with the wood and it was fun to make something useful that also looks cool.”

Ryan and Bradshaw noted that it was beneficial to be able to work on separate projects, but to coordinate the final look.

“It was cool as friends to be working in the same area,” Ryan said.

Cooper noted that the projects have helped add to the overall ambiance of the garden.

“Before, we couldn’t come out and sit down,” she said. “The garden itself is a lovely addition to the school, but now the kids can sit in it and enjoy it more. I also like the idea that these two young men created something functional. The birdhouses are attracting attention, and we have more birds and native insects.”

She added that teachers are the “planters,” but rarely get to see the results over time.

“Our time is short with a group of kids, we do what we can, then hand them off to a new experience,” she said. “It’s so touching when a kid reaches into their childhood memory and pays an old teacher a visit. It’s especially wonderful to see a high school student want to pay it backward to a place they fondly remember, and make a lasting impact for others to enjoy for years to come.”