BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - It started with building model WWII airplanes and battleships when he was 9, followed by a voracious curiosity to learn about the Second World War. Even his Lego creations were layouts of battle scenes from WWII and he enjoyed using military metaphors during his chess moves. For Sohum Agnihotri, a Junior at the Academy for Allied Health Sciences, the wartime stories he read were as fascinating as the science behind military warfare and the entwined geopolitics. His interest in military history and science found the perfect confluence in Scouting, when he joined the local Berkeley Heights Troop 368. Every young boy deserves a chance to find his tribe and Sohum found his in Scouting.
An Eagle candidate must propose, plan and lead the execution of a service project to benefit non-profit organizations like schools, churches or government. To earn his Eagle rank, Sohum wanted to do a service project to help his town’s community. In collaboration with the Berkeley Heights Recreation Department, he identified the need to build a resting area next to the playground for parents and caregivers in Veterans Memorial Park. He planned for the construction of a large 15 x 18 feet patio, complete with three picnic tables. His Project Beneficiary requested that he try to finish the patio before Memorial Day, because the annual Memorial Day Parade ends with a ceremony and celebration at that Park every year. This meant that Sohum had to manage an outdoor project with a tight deadline and the vagaries of weather. Scouts of all ages literally dug in, evening out the pit, shoveling crushed concrete, carrying and laying bricks, finishing off the patio and helping with the benches.
Carolyn George, the Project Beneficiary from the Recreation department said, "I am so glad Sohum brought this project to life. The Veterans Memorial Park is our newest park in town and the playground patio and benches that were constructed as part of his Eagle Project will see a lot of use. The playground brings in a lot of young families and children. Through the course of the project, he was always respectful and sincere and I was impressed that he completed it before starting his Junior year in High School."
His Boy Scouts Troop’s adventurous campouts fulfilled Sohum’s desire to explore the outdoors, rafting down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, backpacking 90 miles over two weeks in the Rockies for the legendary Philmont trek, camping in the Adirondacks, canoeing down rivers and spelunking in caves. Scouting provided opportunities to serve the community with projects like blood drives and food drives. Scouting introduced him to First Aid and Emergency Preparedness, required Eagle Merit Badges, which got him interested in the American Red Cross certification in CPR/AED. During the summers, Sohum worked as a STEM Counselor at the Patriot Path Council’s Summer STEM Institute. He didn’t know it then but all these experiences would end up shaping his future goals and cultivating good habits.
Scouting’s boy-led philosophy and programs, inculcates independence and confidence without arrogance, and fosters a strong sense of camaraderie and selfless community service. These are incredible values to instill in our youth, and parents today can use all the help they can get. To earn the rank of Eagle Scout, the Scout must hold a series of leadership positions, complete 21 merit badges, learn a host of practical skills, and participate in community service throughout their tenure as a Scout. In addition to wearing his Boy Scout Class A uniform with immense pride, Sohum also wears his GL Highlander Marching Band and GL Tennis Team uniforms with equal spirit.