By Joyce Costello, USAG Livorno Public AffairsJune 24, 2008
LIVORNO, Italy - Children here now have a safer playground thanks in part to the efforts of a dedicated teenager.
Life Scout Troop 76 member James Speck has spent the last five months working to attain the highest Boy Scout rank of Eagle Scout. One requirement to reach that level is planning and executing a leadership project.
During a meeting with the former command sergeant major of U.S. Army Garrison Livorno, Command Sgt. Maj. William Berrios, Speck learned that that a children's playground located next to Army Lodging did not meet safety requirements because of uneven and hard ground.
Speck, 14, decided that helping to fix the problem would be something the community would benefit from; hence, he made it his project.
"I have family members and friends who use this playground. To me, this was a way to give back to a community that has helped me become the person that I am," said Speck. "Plus, by helping others, I can be a positive example to my younger brother Stephen."
According to Berrios, James was accountable for $2,184 in project materials and more than $5,000 worth of equipment, along with the safety, morale and welfare of 21 volunteers.
"(James) is a very motivated young man who ensured everyone received safety briefings and that water, food and medical personnel were available during the grueling labor of digging and rebuilding the pea gravel safety zone," said Berrios. "His team provided a total of 223.5 man hours, saving the community approximately $4,360. More importantly, his efforts helped to provide a safe playground for our children."
Speck stressed that the Better Opportunity for Single Soldiers program played a crucial role in helping him to meet his goal.
"I really appreciate the Soldiers, airmen and civilians who came out on their weekend," said Speck. "I've always admired the many people who have mentored and helped me in my journey to become an Eagle Scout. I hope that I can be like them and be a good role model for others."
Speck added that the hardest thing about completing the project was remaining focused and dedicated - and not losing sight of his goal during the project, an accomplishment his mother is very proud of.
"I enjoyed the example of T.E.A.M. Darby coming together before my eyes," said Elizabeth Speck, referring to newly arrived USAG Livorno Command Sgt. Maj. Felix Rodriguez's philosophy of "Together Everyone Achieves More."
"James really grew in his ability as a leader because of the support and mentoring of many volunteers across Darby," Elizabeth added. "Boy Scouts is all about growing leaders. I'm glad Troop 76 is here."
"Becoming an Eagle Scout is hard work," said the younger Speck, "but I think that Boy Scouts gives young men great opportunities to learn outdoor skills, and how to be a better person along the way and is good way to learn life lessons in fun environment."