MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ - Ryan Bonk of Troop 177 was awarded the rank of Eagle Scout at an Eagle Court of Honor Ceremony on Sunday. Bonk joins this rank with 10 other Eagle Scouts from Troop 177 -- the first in four years.
Bonk's friends and family celebrated his achievement at the Community Presbyterian Church, where distinguished guests like Congressman Leonard Lance acclaimed Bonk's contributions to local communities and Troop 177.
"We must cultivate the talents we have been given, and you have done that, Ryan," said Congressman Lance. "All the values we share together this afternoon depend on individual leadership ... It is our hope in Washington that you will be a leader for your generation."
Mountainside Rotary Club members were also in attendance; club president Bart Barre presented Bonk with a Certificate of Achievement.
Both of Bonk's parents were glowing throughout the ceremony, and Bonk's aunt and uncle traveled from Mexico so they could be a part of their nephew's official recognition.
"We salute you," said Maribel Muñoz, Bonk's aunt. "We want to convey how proud we are of your accomplishments."
Bonk's accomplishments come as a result of thousands of hours of training and preparation to attain the Eagle Scout rank. In addition to spending over 20 nights camping alone, as well as learning how to perform first aid and assist in disaster relief. Bonk and troop 177 put in 300 to 400 of man hours on the final Eagle Scout project.
Bonk organized and designed a trail-clearing restoration project for the Reeves Reed Arboretum in Summit. Bonk fundraised money in tandem with local businesses and worked to widen the trail, build chairs to improve trail safety and install new benches along the trail.
The arboretum included a letter for Assistant Scoutmaster Mike DiPietro to read on its behalf, and said the project could not have been done without Bonk's initiative.
"By clearing that pathway, he opened that hidden corner for future generations," read DiPietro. "Ryan will go on to a life of great accomplishments and great service."
Along with the high praise from Congressman Lance and Reeves Reed Arboretum, Bonk also received various letters from notable leaders like President Obama and Governor Chris Christie.
Bonk knows what being an Eagle Scout is really all about and credits his troop for his achievement. "It wouldn't be what it is without you guys," Bonk said. "Service to the community – that's what this project is all about."
Troop 177 Scoutmaster Jeff Healy said that he is proud of Bonk and the example he sets for the scouts of 177 and the Mountainside community.
"It's nice to see the lasting effect [of the project] on the rest of the community," said Healy. Bonk is a "very valued scout, a great leader and a great example. [This is] a great foundation to build on."
Bonk is currently attending Georgia Tech, where he hopes to graduate with a degree in chemical engineering.
Eagle Scout is the highest advancement rank in Boy Scouting. To earn the rank, a Boy Scout must progress through the ranks of Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, and Life Scout and earn 21 merit badges or more.
Famous Eagle Scouts include astronauts Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, James Lovell of Apollo 13 fame, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, former NJ Senator Bill Bradley, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg, and President Gerald R. Ford.