Scout undertakes ‘monumental’ task to earn Eagle rank
A longtime member of George Merrick Troop 7 in Coral Gables, Justin Herrera has attained the Eagle Scout rank — the highest achievement in the Boy Scouts.
More remarkable than this accomplishment, bestowed on Justin by the Tequesta District Eagle Board in February, is how the 18-year-old went about becoming an Eagle Scout.
Justin, who lives with his mother, uncle and grandmother in West Miami, joined the Boy Scouts when he was around 11.
“We went to a festival in Coral Gables and met a Boy Scout. He told me it was fun, my mom asked me if I wanted to join, and I signed up,” Justin said.
Several years later, at the South Florida Emerald Society’s St. Patrick’s Day Festival in March 2011, Justin and Troop 7 Scoutmaster Robin Burr were approached by Chuck Harty, a South Miami resident and a former Scoutmaster of Troop 336 (South Miami / Pinecrest).
“He started talking to us about disheveled concrete markers. He wanted to restore them back to their original beauty,” recalled Ms. Burr. “They were crooked, faded and couldn’t be read anymore. The city didn’t have the manpower to do it all.”
Ultimately, Mr. Harty wanted to see that all the historic address monuments throughout South Miami be scraped, primed and painted with a fresh coat of white paint. The addresses listed on the markers would then be stenciled in with a new coat of black paint.
Justin was determined to turn Mr. Harty’s vision into reality.
Mr. Harty and Justin, with the help of Scoutmaster Burr, began by identifying every historic marker in South Miami. The process was especially tedious because there were no records or maps of the landmarks.
“We initially thought there were 25-50 markers. There ended up being 77!” said Ms. Burr.
Overwhelmed by the number of monuments, Justin persevered nonetheless.
The South Miami Senior High student recruited the help of Keith Ng, public works director for the city of South Miami, as well as family, friends and fellow Scouts to complete the project.
Justin would dispatch teams of volunteers on skateboards to scrape the markers. Afterward, a group of helpers would arrive by vehicle with paint and paintbrushes to finish the makeover. The city of South Miami provided the materials.
Though the project required months of meticulous planning, mapping and organizing, most of the fieldwork was done during a weekend in December. City employees followed up with the final stenciling of the addresses.
The most difficult part of the project?
“Balancing everything out,” Justin said. It was “really hard” making time for Boy Scout meetings and night school, both of which took place on the same day. Despite all this, Justin succeeded in attaining his goal and credits Scoutmaster Burr for being able to do so.
“She was like another mother,” Justin said. “She was supportive through the whole process.”
Justin, who would like to attend Florida International University or Miami-Dade College, hopes his story will encourage more people to join the Boy Scouts.
“When people think of Boy Scouts, they think it’s nothing. They think we sell cookies. It’s been an extra family. It’s a part of my life. I got to learn things nobody learns.”