John Stears is rebuilding faith in our youth, one chair at a time.
By the time March rolls around, 15-year-old Stears plans to finish a project to remove 144 torn and lumpy seats from the Roebling Theater at NOVA Center for the Performing Arts and replace them with cushier seats donated from the old Cine 7.
NOVA needs the theater ready for its big spring production, "James and the Giant Peach," which opens March 10.
The project is part of Stears’ Eagle Scout service project through Boy Scout Troop 7, led by scout master Mark Sevier.
The coolest part is, Stears isn't doing this alone. He's got the community pulling for him. He brought in some of his hockey friends and their parents, other Scouts and their folks, and supporters of NOVA, including former Eagle Scouts from the Mormon church congregation in Billings.
Dodie Rife, executive director at NOVA, believes the experience Stears is getting in leadership and collaboration are the most valuable aspects of the project. And she ought to know. Her two sons are also Eagle Scouts.
“I am a huge advocate of the Scouts,” Rife said. “Boy Scouts is brilliant from the mentoring to the leadership and collaboration that the organization encourages.”
Sevier, who has been head master of Troop 7 for 21 years, said the national percentage of Boy Scouts who earn the Eagle Scout rank is about 5 percent.
“Our troop is 28 percent,” he said.
Sevier shrugged trying to explain why Billings kids are so successful at becoming Eagle Scouts, then added this insight: “Those who say the young of today are going to hell in a handbasket don’t hang out with the youths I hang out with.”
Stears’ mother, Karen, pointed out that Troop 7 includes teenagers from all walks of life. Some have parents who are involved in the group, and others do not.
“It’s a place where kids can learn and grow and be supported,” Karen Stears said.
One thing is universal in Troop 7, enjoying the outdoors.
Stears said he has learned what it takes to winter camp and to lead younger boys in the rigors of camp life. When he returned home from camp last summer, Stears said, "Guess what I got certified in? Scuba diving."
“If I wasn’t in Scouts, I wouldn’t feel like I was ready to lead,” Stears said.
Over the long MLK holiday weekend, Sevier took 15 of the 42 scouts in his troop to Helena for a winter campout, a tour of the capitol and a session with Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney. Sevier’s take-away was this quote from Martin Luther King Jr., which Montana Attorney General Tim Fox used in his speech in Helena, “It’s OK to be great; greatness is measured by service.”
The MLK quote fits in nicely with the mission of the Scouts “To prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes.”
I'd say Stears is on his way.