Students Help Boy Scouts Build Western Fort

The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical choices over their lifetimes. Although just words on paper, that theoretical lesson saw some practical application when 10 highly motivated CMC students recently volunteered to help construct a Western-style fort at Camp Trask for the San Gabriel Valley Boy Scout Council in the hills above Monrovia.

Building the fort for local scout troops was "adopted" as a project by the Arcadia Rotary Club and spearheaded by the club's immediate past president, Robert Novell '67 P'94.

"The students were great," Novell said. "Several Rotarians came up to me and told me how much they had helped, and what a good impression they left regarding the quality and character of CMC."

The students were split into several groups, each charged with painting rooms, erecting walls, applying sealant to exposed wood, off-loading logs from delivery trucks and the myriad other tasks that go into building a 5,000 square-foot., two-story, 18-room, four-tower Western-style fort.

"Working on the fort was definitely a gratifying experience," said senior April Wilson, president of the community service team that recruited the CMC volunteers. "All of the CMCers also got to know each other a little better -- without books, without work -- just getting sweaty and dirty together for a good cause."

Wilson said that her brother was an Eagle Scout and that she grew up with a positive impression of the leadership, confidence, and outdoor skills that scouting fosters.

According to Novell, the fort will be utilized to celebrate Western history as well as provide training for citizenship and outdoor skills that are an integral part of the scouting program. "It is a unique and magical facility," he said, "and is reachable on weekends and during the week by scouts and school groups." The Camp Trask facility is affordable for scouts and their parents who might not otherwise be able to take advantage of such far-flung scouting venues as Catalina Island, he said.

Construction of the fort began in August 2002 with volunteer groups (including the CMC students) working mostly on Saturdays. Just under a year later -- after logging an estimated 4,000 volunteer hours -- the fort was completed and is the latest addition to Camp Trask, which also houses an administration building, dining hall, two nature centers, a chapel and an amphitheater.

Novell, whose job it was to provide the weekly manpower necessary to construct the fort, said work usually commenced around 7 a.m. every Saturday, with quitting time around mid-afternoon. Steve Siegel, CMC associate director of development/annual giving, was an early volunteer and approached assistant director of Career Services Beth Ricca about marshalling student volunteers. Ricca enlisted the aid of Wilson who recruited and organized the CMC student volunteers.

"During the semester, we have at least one project every week, and usually more, for CMC students to get involved with; everything from Habitat for Humanity projects to arts and crafts activities with children," Ricca said.

The spirit of community service is not lost on Wilson and her fellow student volunteers. "I would say that the 'builder's spirit' we fostered with Fort Trask has grown," she said. "We founded a five-college Habitat for Humanity chapter this semester, are helping to build a house in Chino, and are raising funds to build a Claremont Habitat house entirely by ourselves."

To add even more incentive, Novell said that a plaque installed at the fort lists the names of all the workers who volunteered their efforts.

"That kind of recognition is in the best tradition of the Boy Scouts," he said.

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