Eagle Scout project freshens Optimist Park courts

Tuesday, November 27, 2018 0 Comments

Eagle Scout project freshens Optimist Park courts

The basketball courts at Optimist Park were not at all an optimistic sight. All the usage throughout the years changed the paint from a bright forest green to a dingy swampy gray with patches of white cement peeking out from underneath.

That is why Ricardo Santana, a 17-year-old Miami Lakes Educational Center (MLEC) student, decided that painting the courts would be the last mission on his path to becoming an Eagle Scout, a national honor achieved by only four percent of Boy Scouts.

“I know a lot of people use the courts, and painting them would bring new life to the park,” said Santana. “Plus, I was a student at Miami Lakes Middle School and I wanted to give back not just to the community, but to the school as well.”

Throughout Miami, only about five percent of all scouts actually achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, but Santana’s troop (529) has managed to reach a 90 percent average of scouts reaching their final rank.

Santana has been a Boy Scout ever since the first grade, and he’s always aspired to become an Eagle Scout. In order for him to be inducted as one, Santana had to be able to positively impact his community and show independence in doing so. When choosing his project to complete these requirements, he wanted to do something that had never been done before.

“I always wanted to show off what Boy Scouts could do for the community,” Santana said.

The painting of the courts was truly a team effort, and a display of how the troop can come together to create change. Santana used the help of his fellow scouts to get the courts painted a vibrant blue and green in three days. The scouts of his troop know the level of difficulty and work put into the final projects, so they help their fellow scouts attempting to reach the final rank when they can.

“It’s an ‘I scratch your back, you scratch mine’ kind of system,” he said. “We all respect each other, and we’re all friends that want to see each other do better in life.”

Though Santana had ample support, he also faced several obstacles, namely fundraising. He had gotten the project approved and had people to help him, but he lacked the funds to actually pay for materials such as paint and rollers.

“This was the hardest part of the project,” Santana said. “A lot of people loved the idea and would support you, but wouldn't donate to the project.”

Santana had to put in countless hours of work doing car washes, sending letters, emails, calls and texts to all kinds of companies and organizations. Even going so far as to go out to stores in full uniform to promote the project hoping someone would contribute.

In the end, he was able to gather enough funds to paint two basketball courts, and the response from the community was all positive.

“It’s really nice,” said Vermont Manning, a basketball enthusiast who frequents the courts. “I like the bright colors. It’s really helpful since now it’s going to be easier to see the court when playing at dark hours.”

The vibrance of the colors is an especially popular feature of the new paint job.

“I really love the choice of color and it just feels brand new,” said Justin Melendez, a student at Miami Lakes Middle School. “It has more grip now, so I’m less likely to fall when playing.”

In his quest to become an Eagle Scout, Santana has been a great benefit to the community. By fixing what may have seemed like a minor issue to some, he has actually improved the way Miami Lakers feel about an environment that has such strong ties to the community.

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