Once an Eagle, always an Eagle.
Last Friday, a dedication ceremony was held for a new butterfly garden at Dearing Elementary School. The garden was the Eagle Scout service project of Thomson High 2007 graduate Kenneth Watkins. And Saturday, Kenneth went to begin his freshman year majoring in mechanical engineering at Georgia Southern University, the home of the Eagles.
"(The garden) took a lot of help through out the community," Kenneth said during the ceremony. "It was a lot of hard work... To become an Eagle Scout, you have to have dedication... Only three out of 100 kids get their Eagle Scout, and I'm proud to say I'll soon become one."
Kenneth stood in the middle of the garden with his family and DES Principal Laura Hughes, while the elementary students crowded around the circle. In the center of the school's walking track, the garden is a 20-ft. circle of concrete inlaid with a compass, surrounded by raised flower beds made of brick. The layout was designed on computer by Kenneth's older brother, Chris.
"Today is a very special day because we have something so cool right here thanks to this young man," Principal Laura Hughes said to the crowd. "It took a lot of work to get this here. ... All these Watkins's have worked hard to make it happen."
Kenneth said the most difficult part of the project was laying the brick. Although he received a lot of help from Frails Construction Company, Dorsey Construction Company and Boy Scout Troop 310, Kenneth said he and his family did a lot of the work themselves.
"We learned to lay brick, and they are round," quipped Kenneth's mother, Susan. "At least that's how it seemed when we were trying to fit them together."
The raised brick beds encircle the concrete slab and the marble compass. During the construction, the teen boys discovered there is an echo when they squat down in the center of the slab and talk.
"Oh my gosh, I love that part of it," Dr. Hughes said. "It's awesome."
Milkweed and other flowers are planted in the beds to attract Monarchs. Kenneth installed an irrigation system to keep the garden growing through the summer's heat. He said O'Neal Plumbing donated their services to help him.
"We don't have to put out a sign for the butterflies to know they can come, do we?" Dr. Hughes asked the children. "What sign will they see? They will see the flowers and they'll know to come."
Future plans include a retirement grove, where trees will be planted around the garden with a marker naming each teacher who retires from DES. Dr. Hughes said there is room for up to 300 trees to be planted. She said the space also will be used by teachers as an outdoor classroom area.
"But not until winter time," fourth grade teacher Lori Whatley said as she fanned herself from the heat.
Since the garden was completed, O'Neal Plumbing installed a drinking fountain at the walking track for the convenience of walkers and the visitors to the garden. Kenneth said he would also like to recognize Culpepper Lumber Company, Taylor-Made Concrete and Allen Landscaping for their donations.
And Dr. Hughes would like to thank Kenneth and his family. She said she hopes to have a plaque placed at the garden recognizing them for their work.
"(Kenneth) did such a fantastic job," she said. "It looks so professional and beautiful."