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3 Eagle Scouts fly high in MAHS Class of 2019; the trio have been friends since they were little

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 5/28/19

Fewer than one in 10 — 4 percent to be exact — of Boy Scouts achieve scouting’s highest rank, Eagle Scout.

But this year’s Middletown Area High School graduating class of …

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3 Eagle Scouts fly high in MAHS Class of 2019; the trio have been friends since they were little

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Fewer than one in 10 — 4 percent to be exact — of Boy Scouts achieve scouting’s highest rank, Eagle Scout.

But this year’s Middletown Area High School graduating class of 144 seniors has three Eagle Scouts.

Principal Michael Carnes recalls one other year — 1988 —  when that many Eagle Scouts were in one Blue Raider  class.

Carnes wasn’t principal then. One of the graduating Eagle Scouts that year was his older brother, Paul.

What makes this all the more special is that all three  Eagle Scouts — Ben Knisely, Clayton Wagner and Noah Yeich — have known each other, grown up together, and been in Scouting together since kindergarten.

“It’s a long journey,” Knisely said.

Now, all three are turning 18, the age they must leave Scouting, although all three can still be involved as adult leaders.

They are all going their separate ways to college. They hope to stay in touch.

You have to do a lot of things to become an Eagle Scout. The requirement best known to most people is the Eagle Scout project, a project planned and completed to benefit the community.

Every Eagle Scout project requires at least 100 man-hours. All three of these guys devoted more than 200 hours to each of their Eagle Scout projects, said Bobby Nezovich, who was scoutmaster for Ben, Clayton and Noah at Troop 594 in Middletown.

All three also well exceeded the minimum 21 merit badges required to become an Eagle Scout. There are also additional community service requirements on top of the Eagle Scout project.

“I’m an Eagle Scout. I know what it takes to get to that rank,” said Nezovich, who recently stepped down as scoutmaster for job-related reasons. “It takes a lot of dedication and a lot of focus, determination, and help from the parents.”

The projects

Knisely for his project had constructed two 60-foot-long by 5-foot-high retaining walls to terrace a steep grass hill at his church, Hershey Free Church in Derry Township.

The project also included beautifying the landscape with a variety of vegetation in the bed between the walls.

Knisely said the project made the area much safer and easier for the church’s maintenance crew to care for.

Yeich’s project was to build a 4-by-4-foot by 16-foot-tall bird house — known as a Chimney Swift Tower and Kiosk — near the north parking lot at Wildwood Park near Harrisburg Area Community College.

The project combined Yeich’s love of outdoors with his interest in carpentry and construction.

Wagner for his project replaced a dilapidated fence along the back of American Legion Post 594 in Middletown with a shiny new white vinyl fence.

“They’ve done a lot for the troop,” Wagner said of the Legion post. “They always support us and give us somewhere to meet each week, so I thought it would be a good way to give something back to them.”

It’s important to note that none of the scouts did their project by themselves. They had a lot of help from other scouts. Ben, Clayton and Noah all actively helped each other to complete their own Eagle Scout projects.

It’s an unwritten rule that scouts support each other and will be there for each other’s projects, Yeich said. It’s too much for any one scout to do on their own.

Famous Eagle Scouts

Becoming Eagle Scouts puts these guys in select company.

The first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, was an Eagle scout. H. Ross Perot, Bill Gates Sr. — father of the Microsoft founder — Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer, and Steven Spielberg all became Eagle Scouts, according to the Boy Scouts of America website.

Why do so few scouts make it to Eagle Scout? So many other things get in the way, along the way.

Wagner jokes about the “three Ws — work, wheels and women.”

Among other things they had going on in their lives was sports. They all played soccer, Ben and Clayton together from fourth through 10th grade. Noah joined in in seventh and eighth grades.

But “we always knew that Eagle Scout was the end goal, and we all stuck to it,” Wagner said. “Now that we have all achieved that rank we are very glad that we did stick with it.”

He’s heard stories from others who regret having dropped out before becoming Eagle Scouts.

It becomes harder as you get older and have more responsibilities related to school and work, Yeich said. But “if you stick to it and manage your time well, you can get it done.”

The three boys have fond memories playing Capture The Flag together while growing up as scouts.

They also remember being on a boat fishing in the Chesapeake Bay a few years ago during the Bay Port Camp in Jamaica, Virginia.

“Our biggest fish took two boats to pull in,” Clayton said.

As Nezovich said, support from parents is important. However, Knisely said his parents pushed him to be “an all-around student.” Scouting was just one of the things that developed him as a person.

The three boys having come all this way together is special for the parents, too.

“I’m very proud of all three boys,” said Ben’s mother, Shirley Knisely. “I’m glad they stuck with it and it was a pleasure watching all three grow into fine young men.”

Future plans

Ben is going on to Rochester Institute of Technology, where he will pursue a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

Beyond that he isn’t sure where he’ll end up, but that a mechanical engineering degree opens up a lot of doors.

Clayton has his eye on a career in farming. He’s going to Penn State University’s main campus for a four-year degree in agribusiness management. He also landed one of “a very limited” number of spots working at the university’s Beef and Sheep Center.

Noah is headed for the Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology. He wants to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, a retired wood shop teacher at Red Land High School who taught Yeich woodworking.

“I really enjoy it,” Yeich said. He wants to be a craftsman, making his living custom-building furniture and cabinetry.

During his Court of Honor banquet — the event where each scout officially becomes an Eagle Scout — Yeich gave Nezovich a pen made of wood that Yeich had hand-crafted for his scoutmaster.

“He’s a very skilled craftsman, even at the young age of 18,” Nezovich said of Yeich.

All three are unique in their own way, said Noah’s mother Lori Yeich. Scouting has provided a path for each of them to find their own passions.

“These three young men give us hope, don’t they?” she said.

Going away and leaving one another is bittersweet, even for Nezovich. The three are the last boys he remembers from when he started getting involved with scouting as an adult leader.

“It makes you feel old. I’m going to miss those guys,” he said.

“It’s kind of like my childhood is gone. I gotta move on now,” Wagner said. “Looking back, I’ve had a great childhood, and scouting was a big part of it.”

“It feels nice to know that I will always have people here in Middletown with whom I am connected. We have grown up together and we will always have those ties. No one can take that away,” Knisely said. All three also well exceeded the minimum required 21 merit badges required to become an Eagle Scout. There are also additional community service requirements on top of the Eagle Scout project.

“I’m an Eagle Scout. I know what it takes to get to that rank,” said Nezovich, who recently stepped down as scoutmaster for job-related reasons. “It takes a lot of dedication and a lot of focus, determination, and help from the parents.”

Knisely for his project had constructed two 60-foot-long by 5-foot-high retaining walls to terrace a steep grass hill at his church, Hershey Free Church in Derry Township.

The project also included beautifying the landscape with a variety of vegetation in the bed between the walls.

Knisely said the project made the area much safer and easier for the church’s maintenance crew to care for.

Yeich’s project was to build a 4-by-4-foot by 16-foot-tall bird house — known as a Chimney Swift Tower and Kiosk — near the north parking lot at Wildwood Park near Harrisburg Area Community College.

The project combined Yeich’s love of outdoors with his interest in carpentry and construction.

Wagner for his project replaced a dilapidated fence along the back of American Legion Post 594 in Middletown with a shiny new white vinyl fence.

“They’ve done a lot for the troop,” Wagner said of the Legion post. “They always support us and give us somewhere to meet each week, so I thought it would be a good way to give something back to them.”

It’s important to note that none of the scouts did their project by themselves. They had a lot of help from other scouts. Ben, Clayton and Noah all actively helped each other to complete their own Eagle Scout projects.

It’s an unwritten rule that scouts support each other and will be there for each other’s projects, Yeich said. It’s too much for any one scout to do on their own.

Becoming Eagle Scouts puts these guys in select company.

The first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, was an Eagle scout. H. Ross Perot, Bill Gates Sr. — father of the Microsoft founder — Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer, and Steven Spielberg all became Eagle Scouts, according to the Boy Scouts of America website.

Why do so few scouts make it to Eagle Scout?

So many other things get in the way, along the way.

Wagner jokes about the “three Ws — work, wheels and women.”

Among other things they had going on in their lives was sports. They all played soccer, Ben and Clayton together from fourth through 10th grade. Noah joined in in seventh and eighth grades.

But “we always knew that Eagle Scout was the end goal, and we all stuck to it,” Wagner said. “Now that we have all achieved that rank we are very glad that we did stick with it.”

He’s heard stories from older friends who regret having dropped out before becoming Eagle Scouts.

It becomes harder as you get older and have more responsibilities related to school and work, Yeich said. But “if you stick to it and manage your time well, you can get it done.”

As Nezovich said, support from parents is important. However, Knisely said his parents pushed him to be “an all-around student.” Scouting was just one of the things that developed him as a person.

The three boys having come all this way together is special for the parents, too.

“I’m very proud of all three boys,” said Ben’s mother, Shirley Knisely. “I’m glad they stuck with it and it was a pleasure watching all three grow into fine young men.”

Ben is going on to Rochester Institute of Technology, where he will pursue a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

Beyond that he isn’t sure where he’ll end up, but that a mechanical engineering degree opens up a lot of doors.

Clayton has his eye on a career in farming. He’s going to Penn State University’s main campus for a four-year degree in agribusiness management. He also landed one of “a very limited” number of spots working at the university’s Beef and Sheep Center.

Noah is headed for the Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology. He wants to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, a retired wood shop teacher at Red Land High School who taught Yeich woodworking.

“I really enjoy it,” Yeich said. He wants to be a craftsman, making his living custom-building furniture and cabinetry.

During his Court of Honor banquet — the event where each scout officially becomes an Eagle Scout — Yeich gave Nezovich a pen made of wood that Yeich had hand-crafted for his scoutmaster.

“He’s a very skilled craftsman, even at the young age of 18,” Nezovich said of Yeich.

All three boys are unique in their own way, said Noah’s mother Lori Yeich. Scouting has provided a path for each of them to find their own passions.

“These three young men give us hope, don’t they?” she said.

Going away and leaving one another is bittersweet, even for Nezovich. The three are the last boys he remembers from when he started getting involved with scouting as an adult leader.

“It makes you feel old. I’m going to miss those guys,” he said.

“It’s kind of like my childhood is gone. I gotta move on now,” Wagner said. “Looking back, I’ve had a great childhood, and scouting was a big part of it.”

“It feels nice to know that I will always have people here in Middletown with whom I am connected. We have grown up together and we will always have those ties. No one can take that away,” Knisely said.