Zachary Meiczinger was a first-grader when he became a Tiger, the preliminary level of Boy Scouts. He liked it from the very beginning.
And now, the Gaither High junior has achieved the ultimate: He’s an Eagle Scout.
“It’s a real honor,’’ said Meiczinger, 16, a member of Troop 12. “It’s something I’ll have the rest of my life.’’
Since the Eagle Scout designation began in 1911, only 4% of Scouts have earned the honor. Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, was an Eagle Scout. So was former President Gerald R. Ford. Academy Award-winning director Steven Spielberg is one, too.
Becoming an Eagle Scout requires a lengthy review process, the acquisition of at least 21 merit badges and the completion of a community service project.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to see someone grow from first-grade stature to someone who is showing leadership and has a vision of what they want to do with the rest of their life,’’ said local Boy Scouts leader Paul O’Connor, Meiczinger’s first troop leader and the supervisor of his Eagle Scout project.
Meiczinger’s project was completed at Lutz Elementary School, where he attended and where his father is a fifth-grade teacher. He painted the fences in the school’s front area, between the cafeteria and main office, while installing about 100 plants, and mulching the entire area.
He also installed a Ga-Ga Ball Pit — a version of dodgeball played in a fenced-in octagon — to give the school kids another recreation option.
“That’s a nice payback for a place where Zach has strong ties, and I thought it was a great choice,’’ O’Connor said.
Meiczinger has lived his life making great choices. He runs cross-country for Gaither and also plays recreational soccer, but Scouting has been his driving force. He has formed lifelong relationships, learned valuable practical skills and had great experiences.
He can’t recall many of his Tiger experiences. But, he does remember an overnight sleepover at the Kennedy Space Center, where they reclined in sleeping bags and stared up at the rockets.
He has enjoyed countless camping trips and a few whitewater rafting expeditions. Next summer, he’s taking a trip to the Florida Keys, where he will impart knowledge to the younger Scouts.
“I’ve been able to stay connected to some great friends,’’ Meiczinger said. “I’ve learned how to do things like CPR. I’ve stayed really dedicated and consistent to it and that gives me a lot of pride. I started something a long time ago and now I’m finishing it.’’
O’Connor — an Eagle Scout himself — said Meiczinger’s accomplishment should be celebrated.
“Zach has given himself a tremendous opportunity,’’ O’Connor said. “He’s a junior who is starting to look at colleges. Having ‘Eagle Scout’ on his college application is phenomenal. After college, when he’s looking for a job, the words ‘Eagle Scout’ on a job application will open so many doors.
“I have seen the benefits of it personally (working as a project manager for General Electric). He will be placed in leadership positions and get great exposure. My wife works at a large law firm and she sees a lot of resumes. She says if ‘Eagle Scout’ is there, that person will generally get pulled in, at least for an initial interview. It’s a powerful thing.’’
Meiczinger said he knows that already.
“I always see where the Eagle Scouts say how it sticks with them for their whole life,’’ Meiczinger said. “It helped them get places, whether it was a college or somewhere in their career. I can put the term ‘Eagle Scout’ by my name. It’s an honor and a privilege.’’
By Joey Johnston
Published January 06, 2021