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Freshman earns Eagle Scout, to bike border to border

Freshman Akhil Long has accomplished what only 4 percent of Boy Scouts do – earned his Eagle Scout rank. Akhil, who has been involved in Boy Scouts for five years, completed the steps to earning the highest rank in Boy Scouts, including earning 21 merit badges and organizing a service project. His project was redesigning the St. Vincent de Paul Society food pantry at St. Anthony of Padua Parish.

Akhil spent three months planning the project, including raising $900 in donations from friends, family, and the St. Anthony Men’s Club. He also organized a group of volunteers who installed new shelves and painted the walls. The result is something he is proud of, he said.

“I feel like I did a pretty good job on it,” Akhil said.

Akhil said he plans to remain involved in Scouting with Troop 4010 out of St. Anthony because he likes the friends he has made there. It also has given him the opportunity to strengthen his skills and learn new ones. Over Christmas break, he attended National Youth Leadership Training sponsored by the Boys Scouts. He said he learned different ways to improve his leadership skills, how to work in groups, and to improve his teamwork skills.

But Scouting isn’t his only activity. He also is a member of the Track & Field team and will run sprints this season. He also likes to bike and has taken several long bike rides around the area. This summer, he plans to go further than he ever has before —  biking 1,500 miles from Tucson, Ariz., to northern Montana in three weeks with the Indianapolis-based bicycle club deCycles Indiana. The trip is limited to 40 people and includes 25 student-riders. This will be Akhil’s first long-distance cycling trip, and he said he is looking forward to it.

“It’s something not a lot of people can say that they did,” he said.

His mom told him about the trip, which starts in late June, after hearing about it from a neighbor who went. She encouraged him to apply because she knew he liked to bike, he said.

The trip will start in the Arizona desert, with biking limited to mornings and evenings. The second week, the group will bike through the Navaho Reservation and Zion National Park, one of nine national parks along the journey. The third week, the group will cross the Continental Divide and bike through Yellowstone National Park.

Akhil starts training for the trip this week with several of his friends who are going. They will train on their own (rather than with the Indianapolis cycling club) by riding around the area. In bad weather, he will ride a trainer he has at home.

He is undaunted by the prospect of three weeks on a bicycle because it’s an activity he enjoys.

“It has a bit of a challenge to it, and it’s kind of fun,” he said.

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Senior’s Eagle Scout project helps shelter

Senior Nik Heiligenberg recently earned his Eagle Scout rank, the highest rank in Boy Scouts. A member of Troop 4010 out of St. Anthony, he earned the rank in part by completing a project that included building a storage shed for the Haven House homeless shelter in Jeffersonville.

Nik said he came up with the idea for the project after a relative suggested it. With the help of his parents, he set up a GoFundMe account to raise the $1,000 in donations to purchase the kit and supplies. Family, friends and the Callistus Smith Insurance Agency contributed.

He then organized a group of volunteers that included about 30 fellow Scouts, friends and family who worked over six weekends to construct the base and build the shed. A few of the shelter’s residents also helped, including someone with roofing experience who provided invaluable expertise.

The extra space was so sorely needed that the shelter’s staff had started to store items even before the shed was painted, Nik said. Those items had to be removed to finish the project, but it has since been filled, as he saw when he returned to help a fellow Scout with his project of building a playground for the shelter. Seeing it put to such quick use affirmed the need for the project.

“It felt pretty good making everyone happy,” Nik said.

Nik has been a Scout since first grade, starting as a Cub Scout before advancing to Boy Scouts in fifth grade. He said he especially appreciates the leadership training he receives as a Scout and the chance to do outdoor activities. More importantly, he likes the camaraderie and witnessing each other’s personal growth.

“I grew up with them (fellow Scouts), and to see everyone grow up and the service that we do, it’s good to see that,” he said.

Nik plans to attend college at Indiana University-Bloomington, where he has received a direct admit to its Kelley School of Business.

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