Aside from the standard stumbling blocks any individual seeking an Eagle Scout ranking encounters, Sequim teen Andy Benitez had a couple of daunting obstacles: uncooperative weather and a global pandemic.
Nevertheless, Benitez completed both his project this spring — repainting of the schoolhouse on Blue Mountain Road — and earned his Eagle Scout accolade, completing an effort that about only 4 percent of all participants in Scouts BSA achieved.
The school operated from 1903-1935 in the Blue Mountain district and its property has since been maintained and preserved by the Blue Mountain Cemetery Association.
A Scout in Troop 90, Benitez said the toughest part to completing the painting project was fundraising during the COVID pandemic. Not many stores were able to give donations, he said, so he got a job doing landscaping and contributed his own funds for supplies.
“That was unusual, especially in Sequim,” said Rene Nadon, scoutmaster for Troop 90. “Sequim has been very generous donating to scout troops.”
And then, the wet weather kicked in. Nadon said the painting itself had to be done during specific conditions: dry, with temperatures above 50 degrees.
“None of that happened for a long time; it got delayed months because of the weather,” Nadon said. “I almost thought we would ask for an extension.”
Needing to get the project complete and paperwork filled out prior to Benitez’s birthday in May, the painting was completed around April 23 and all the paperwork filed in time, Nadon said.
Six other scouts, along with some parents, were there to assist as Benitez supervised the work. Nadon noted that many had to camp there to watch over the rented equipment.
Benitez said the highlight of his seven years with the scouts is “the friends I made along the way.”
He noted, “I had friends, people I looked up to, who became Eagle Scouts,” in particular Eagle Scout Dylan Perreira, who earned his Eagle Scout rank in February 2018.
Benitez recently graduated from Sequim High School and is set to attend Northwest Lineman School in Idaho this fall.
No stranger to working outside — Benitez worked at Hurricane Ridge for a spell and endured 60-mile-per-hour winds, he said — the training at the Idaho vocational school will help him be employable in any community.
“You see job opportunities everywhere,” Benitez said.
While the COVID pandemic hurt scouting as a whole, BSA remains strong locally, Nadon said, in both Troop 90 and the male and female groups with Troop 1498, Sequim’s other troop. Combined, the troops have about 65 scouts.
Recruiting efforts for BSA cub scouts, the younger groups of scouts, went well and that age group is seeing a surge was well, Nadon said.
“A lot of it had to do with the fact that we weren’t going to let scouting die in Sequim; they needed to have something going on,” Nadon said.