NORTH AUGUSTA - A Dearing resident and 2007 Thomson High School graduate recently earned the region's highest scouting award for his Eagle Scout service project.
Kenneth Watkins, a Georgia Southern University freshman, received the Frank Dennis Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year Award during a Georgia-Carolina Council of the Boy Scouts of America gala at Grace United Methodist Church in North Augusta. The council oversees scouting in 18 counties on either side of the Savannah River.
Mr. Watkins earned the rank of Eagle Scout by designing and directing the construction of the Educational Butterfly Garden and Retirement Grove at Dearing Elementary School. The garden serves as an outdoor science and social studies classroom, as well as a monument to former educators at the school.
"I don't know what to say, really I don't," Mr. Watkins said after the ceremony. "I appreciate them honoring me, but I did it for the community."
The garden classroom is 36 feet in diameter with 6-foot wide pathways for greater accessibility. It's designed as a habitat for monarch butterflies.
The garden is also lined with trees in honor of retired teachers and at its center stands a compass.
Mr. Watkins said the idea for the garden came from members of his family and scout troop. His mother, Susan, is a former teacher at the school, which has remained a special place for the family, the Eagle Scout said.
"It started me off with the basics," Mr. Watkins said of the school.
Mr. Watkins recruited members of the community to help him complete the 8-month-long design and construction project. The garden was completed in July 2007 and Watkins said he intended for it to remain as a living part of the school.
In selecting the garden as the best service project of 2007, the Georgia-Carolina Council cited Mr. Watkins leadership in pulling members of the general public, many from outside scouting, into the project.
"One of the most unique aspects of this project was the community impact," Dr. Gregory Francisco, the council's advancement chairman, read from the selection committee's report.
Also honored during the ceremony was Dearing resident and scout leader Bobby Simpson. Mr. Simpson was one of six recipients of the coveted Silver Beaver Award, the highest commendation a council can bestow on a volunteer.