NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — Nicholas Stampone, a West Essex High School (WEHS) sophomore, was awarded the rank of Eagle Scout at his Court of Honor on Saturday, where he also obtained a bronze Eagle Palm for earning an additional five merit badges.

The WEHS auditorium was filled with former and present members of Boy Scout Troop 67, members of the Fairfield Board of Education, WEHS staff, Fairfield Chief of Police Anthony Manna, Grand Knight of Fairfield Knights of Columbus Steven Filipow, Peter Kirk from the Northern New Jersey Council of the Boy Scouts of America, family and friends.

“The rank of Eagle is an extremely difficult and prestigious position to obtain,” Gabe Ruszala, current senior patrol leader of Troop 67. “Only a mere 4 percent of scouts achieve this distinguished goal since the inception of scouting.”

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Stampone’s Eagle Scout project was the beautification and landscaping of the front of the high school. To determine the project, Nicholas met with WEHS Principal Caesar Diliberto and decided that the front of the high school had overgrown shrubs that could be replaced.

Stampone drew up a plan, selected shrubs and plants that would not grow too fast and required little maintenance, and presented his plan to the school board for approval.

“After approval, Nicholas had to fill out his Eagle packet that laid out his plan, pictures, estimated costs, supplies, materials, and manpower,” said Ray Stampone, Nicholas’ father and scoutmaster. “He also had to fill out a fundraising application with a sample letter to businesses. The application then had to be submitted and approved by the local Boy Scouts of America Council.”

Upon approval, Nicholas had to raise funds or solicit donations of shrub for the project. According to his father, the local nurseries were very generous in donations of shrub.

Ray said that some businesses donated supplies, while other organizations donated money.

“Once all the funding was available and supplies gathered, Nicholas solicited support from his fellow scouts and family members,” said Ray. “The actual landscaping event took three long days to complete.”

In the end, Nicholas’ project costed $3,000 and 352 hours of labor.

“We are very proud of Nicholas and his fellow scouts for all their hard work on the project,” said Ray and Cathy Stampone, Nicholas’ mother. “The front of the high school looks amazing. It is one of the first impressions of the school you receive as you drive up.

“Obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout is a major undertaking for a young man. We are extremely proud of all the hard work Nicholas has done over the past several years. This learning experience has helped him grow in his leadership skills and has prepared him for all his future endeavors.”

Gary DeFazio, Troop 67 assistant scoutmaster, explained that over the years, Nicholas earned the rank of Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life and finally Eagle. He earned 13 required badges and eight elective badges, and also served in the troop leadership position for six months. He also successfully planned and executed the required Eagle Scout Service project and has now completed about 325 different requirements to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout.

“An Eagle Scout is a young man who is qualified to help others as well as take care of himself,” said DeFazio. “His badge is not a decoration, but rather a symbol of knowledge and ability.”

Nicholas thanked everyone who helped him achieve this honor, especially his family and all the volunteers who helped with the project. He spoke about his scouting journey, and in the ceremony, Nicholas lit a candle in memory of David Millison, his former scoutmaster and mentor. Later in his speech, Nicholas told some of Millison’s “silly jokes.”

He continued to describe his scouting journey, focusing on how he developed as a leader and realized the importance of being compassionate and flexible.

His father stated that through scouting, a boy learns leadership, citizenship and responsibility.

“An Eagle Court of Honor is a special occasion for any scout, and for a scoutmaster, it is one of the highlights of his leadership in awarding the rank of Eagle to one of his scouts,” said Ray. “Today I have a special privilege of awarding this rank to my son.”

Life Scout Antonio Zaccaria came forward to read the scout law as the scoutmaster, using the spirit of scouting candle, and lit a candle as each of the 12 laws was read. Fellow Life Scout Alexander Burrowes led the scouts in the Scout Oath.

Norma Millison, David Millison’s wife, read the Eagle Obligation, explaining how the Eagle rank represents proficiency in all scouting skills. He lives with honor, loyalty, courage, obligation and service, she said.

Other Boy Scouts involved in the ceremony included Andrew Luciano and Aiden Boucher, Tenderfoot Jason Mongiello, Second Class Christopher Emmolo, First Class Marco Mauriello and Michael Madalena, Star Scouts Ryan Coyle, Thomas Egan and Andrew Mongiello, Life Scouts Alexander Burrowes and Antonio Zaccaria and Eagle Scouts Nicholas Petrarca, Will Fitzgeralds and Danny Calix.

Charlie Vanyo, past cub master, advised Nicholas not to be a spectator in life, but to do his best to make a difference.

Filipow wished Nicholas success in all that he does and spoke about Nicholas’ service to others. Filipow also presented Nicholas with a plaque from Fairfield Recreation, as Tony Pompei, director of Fairfield Recreation, was not able to attend.

Joseph Stampone, Nicholas’ grandfather, came to the podium to congratulate his grandson on this highest Boy Scout honor and remind him to continue with his outstanding achievements.

Brian Egan, president of the Fairfield Board of Education, also spoke at the ceremony along with Calix, saying that Nicholas is a born leader and remembering all the fun they had together in scouting.

Nicholas was also recognized by the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Fairfield Mayor James Gasparini and members of the council, State of New Jersey, United States Congress, Boy Scouts Council, Living Presidents, Senator Cory Booker, American Legion, NASA, Fairfield Township Police Department, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen and Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Archdiocese of Newark.

At the ceremony, Father James Manos, former pastor of St. Thomas More Church and present pastor of St. Luke’s Church in HoHoKus gave the invocation and benediction.

After the ceremony, a luncheon was held in the cafeteria for the many guests.

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