By Utah National Parks Council
Aug 12, 2013

Eagle Scout Project Serves Special Needs Children

Scouter Grayson Flora, 17, of Lehi, Utah is working on his Eagle project and will soon join the small minority of Scouters who earn the rank of Eagle. [1]

Grayson, a member of the Westlake High School swim team, took advantage of his love of swimming to teach water safety lessons to special needs children to help them overcome their fear of water.

“There are kids who suffer from Down syndrome or autism that go around the water and end up drowning because they don’t know how to swim,” Grayson is quoted as saying. He was inspired to do the project by his sister, Kayla, who suffers from autism.

One parent expressed his gratitude toward the Scouter because his four year old daughter does not know how to swim and is afraid of the water. Teaching her water safety was something the parents wanted to do for a long time.

The Eagle project grants young men an opportunity to learn leadership through service. That is an interesting concept that great leaders are those who also learn to serve.

Robert Greenleaf developed a leadership theory called “servant leadership.” [2] He based his theory on Hermann Hesse’s Journey to the East. In Hesse’s book, Hesse tells the story of a group of men on a mythical journey. The central character is Leo, a servant who performs all the menial tasks for the men and also provides encouragement through song and spirituality. The groups journey progresses well until Leo disappears causing chaos and the group to disband. Leo, although a servant and considered beneath those socially above him, became the de facto leader of the group.

According to Wren, “The servant-leader is servant first – as Leo was portrayed. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.” [3] One who is a leader first seeks first his/her own needs of power or material wealth and becomes a servant later after leadership is established. The difficulty with leadership first is that one may never establish enough to begin to serve.

Grayson sought to meet the needs of special needs children over his desire to obtain the recognition of Eagle. The recognition of Eagle is secondary to the service that is provided. Grayson learned leadership as he recruited and met with volunteers to plan simple lessons to aid special needs children to become used to water. And not only did he serve the children but also the members of the Westlake High School swim team. Service leadership impacts multiple lives and helps change lives for the better.

Leo, in Hesse’s Journey to the East, is the servant-leader and we can assume that Hesse is the narrator at the end of the story. [4] Hesse writes at the end:

I perceived that my image was in the process of adding to and flowing into Leo’s, nourishing and strengthening it. It seemed that, in time … only one would remain: Leo. He must grow, I must disappear.

As I stood there and looked and tried to understand what I saw, I recalled a short conversation that I had once had with leo during the festive days at Bremgarten. We had talked about the creations of poetry being more vivid and real than the poets themselves.

Wren interprets this passage as the “symbolic personification of Hesse’s aspiration to serve through his literary creations, creations that are greater than Hesse himself; and that his work, for which he was but the channel, will carry on and serve and lead in a way that he, a twisted and tormented man, could not – except as he created.” [5]

Scouts who choose to do an Eagle project learn leadership by providing unselfish service to others and at the end of their service they move on but their service remains in the hearts of those they served.

What better way is there to prepare young boys to serve a mission for the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Missionaries are servants first. They learn to sacrifice and put the gospel of Jesus Christ ahead of their own desires. And after they return home in honor their service will continue to touch the lives of those they served – whether members, friends or new converts.

The Eagle project exemplifies the leader-servant model. The award is not about the recognition but about a final project that culminates all a boy has learned during his time in Scouting and passing on that knowledge to serve those around him.

Author: Heidi Sanders | Utah National Parks Council, Marketing & PR Director



[1] Swimming to Save. The Daily Herald (6 Aug 2013), A1, A4.

[2] The Leader’s Companion: Insights on Leadership Through the Ages. J. Thomas Wren (1995), 18.

[3]  The Leader’s Companion: Insights on Leadership Through the Ages. J. Thomas Wren (1995), 22.

[4] The Leader’s Companion: Insights on Leadership Through the Ages. J. Thomas Wren (1995), 23

[5] The Leader’s Companion: Insights on Leadership Through the Ages. J. Thomas Wren (1995), 23

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