A Gift Built to Last

Former Student’s Scouting Project Helps Furnish School Office

Jared Duncan with the island worktable he constructed for South Elementary School; special education teacher Holly Bednarsky prepares classroom materials in the background

Jared Duncan returned recently to the school he went to for kindergarten and left something for them to remember him by. A big something, in fact.

The Grandville High senior constructed a 60-by-60-inch island worktable for the workroom in the main office of South Elementary School. He undertook the project to earn the rank of Eagle, the Boy Scouts’ highest honor.

But it’s not just a table. Jared worked through three or four drafts with school secretary Wendy VanderWest to design the island so that no space would be unused. There’s room on top for equipment and for sorting, and slots below for poster board and paper, and for the school’s selection of die cuts.

“We used to have a (folding) table and that’s it. It was low to work on and there wasn’t a whole lot of space,” VanderWest said. “This is just so awesome to have everything in one place.”

Jared admitted he had “very little” carpentry experience before taking on what turned out to be a nearly yearlong project. He got a lot of help from Scout parent Gary Phillips, he said. Plus, Jared’s parents and his fellow Scouts helped stain.

His biggest challenge? “Picturing the whole thing together,” he said. “It was daunting, almost scary.”

But as for the process of managing a project, coordinating with others and learning on the fly, “I feel like Scouting prepared me for that,” Jared said.

Dave Valko, scoutmaster of Troop 292, said Jared was one of six Scouts in the Grandville Troop to earn their Eagle ranking, which involves the completion of several steps including a project. Others are Austin Wilson, Alex Dittmer, Nick Weigle and Spencer and Leo Phillips.

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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