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WLCS announces Eagle Scouts at all three high schools

By: Andy Kozlowski | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published June 13, 2019

 Joseph Berkheiser and Robert Long

Joseph Berkheiser and Robert Long

 Nick Cancilla

Nick Cancilla

 Tyler Kochevar

Tyler Kochevar


WALLED LAKE — Each of the high schools in the Walled Lake Consolidated Schools district is celebrating students who have attained the distinguished rank of Eagle Scout.

Their community service projects are diverse and include placing flag holders at the graves of veterans, installing pet waste stations at parks, building an outdoor classroom and more.

The list of new Eagle Scouts includes:

• Nick Cancilla, from Walled Lake Western High School, who mobilized a team of volunteers to remove invasive plants from the driveway and grounds by the Walled Lake Outdoor Education Center.

• Tyler Kochevar, from Walled Lake Central High School, who built a pergola with a whiteboard in an outdoor learning space at Sarah Banks Middle School.

• Joseph Berkheiser, from Walled Lake Northern High School, who placed pet waste stations throughout parks in Commerce Township.

• Robert Long, from Walled Lake Northern, who placed flag holders on the graves of every veteran buried in Commerce Township cemeteries.

• Maxwell Knight, from Walled Lake Central, who built a gaga ball pit at Novi United Methodist Church. He is not yet an Eagle Scout, but is in the final stages of becoming one, having completed his service project.

For Kochevar’s project building the pergola, the Wolverine Lake resident discussed several ideas with his church pastor and individuals at the middle school, which is located in Wixom. The goal was to create something that would benefit students both now and in the future.

He began talks with the school’s administrators in the fall of 2017, and after securing their permission and that of the district, and verifying what permits were required by the city of Wixom, he began building in June 2018, taking about a week to construct the pergola, which measures 12 by 15 feet and sits at the west side of the building, near the drop-off and pickup loop, a location chosen for its optimal lighting conditions both in the morning and in the afternoon, and taking into account water drainage and underground utilities.

Prior to the build, Kochevar visited several lumberyards to get quotes on supplies. To fund the build, he raised money through a bottle and can drive that ran for one month. He also reached out to a construction contractor, Padula Construction, which generously provided heavy equipment to dig holes for the posts in the ground, since it was too rocky to dig by hand. Fifteen other Scouts and six adults assisted in the project.

“Tyler’s father and I are so proud of him for taking on a project of this size,” said his mother, Erica Kochevar. “We were concerned that he may not know enough about building such a structure to lead this project, but on his own initiative he reached out to experts and was able to lead the project successfully. It was really an exciting sight to see when it was complete.”

Tyler Kochevar officially became an Eagle Scout in August 2018. He just finished his freshman year and will graduate from Walled Lake Central in 2022.

Berkheiser, a Commerce Township resident and a junior at Walled Lake Northern who will graduate in 2020, installed pet waste stations in Commerce Township parks for his Eagle Scout project. He completed it in April 2017 and officially became an Eagle Scout in September 2017.

His father, Robert Berkheiser, said that Joseph Berkheiser and the rest of the family are regular park users in Commerce Township.

“We walk our dogs there often,” he said. “We found in the springtime there are piles of animal waste along the trails and in the baseball fields.”

The idea for the pet waste stations was inspired by what they saw while camping across the state in their travel trailer. Joseph Berkheiser noted the pet waste stations at the campgrounds and said that they could be easily installed back at home and make a real difference there. His father suggested researching it for the Eagle Scout project.

“He put in numerous hours researching on the internet and found an example at a park in Arizona that used PVC pipe and allowed recycling of plastic grocery bags,” Robert Berkheiser said. “Joe said, ‘This is what we need. We can kill two birds with one stone: recycle the store bags and help keep the parks clean.’”

Joseph Berkheiser met with Emily England, the director of parks and recreation for Commerce Township. He presented his ideas and an estimate of the project cost to township officials. Upon receiving approval from the township, he then sought approval from his troop and Scout district. From there he created a fundraising program. In January 2017, he and seven other Scouts collected cans and bottles in 20-degree weather, raising more than $500.

He spent that money buying supplies at Lowe’s. With adult oversight, he and the other Scouts spent a weekend cutting and preparing the signs to be installed. Finally, in April 2017, the group placed 10 pet waste stations at five locations: Dodge Park, Richardson Park, Hickory Glenn Park, Maple Glenn Park and Long Park.

So far, the feedback has been positive, Robert Berkheiser said. The biggest issue has been trying to keep the dispensers full with bags.

“The idea was to have patrons who use the parks bring their grocery bags from home and refill the dispensers,” he said.

Joseph Berkheiser said that he’s proud of his accomplishments.

“I only hope that these waste stations will be around to keep our parks clean for years to come,” he said.

Knight, a resident of West Bloomfield, installed a gaga ball pit — in which one plays a variant of dodgeball — on the grounds of Novi United Methodist Church, where his Scout troop meets up. The pit is available to the community.

The project was the most recent one completed, on June 8, and now Knight is in the review phase of becoming an Eagle Scout. He said the project took nearly a year to plan and implement, and that he raised more than $800 via a can and bottle drive to fund it.

“It seems like everyone is liking it,” Knight said. “I’ve seen people using it, and I’m pretty happy with that.”

For Cancilla, of the Walled Lake Western Class of 2019, he decided to remove invasive plants from the Walled Lake Outdoor Education Center because it’s always been a special place to him, having attended camp there in fifth grade.

He began his Eagle Scout project in the spring of 2018, collecting supplies and fundraising while planning out the work that he and his team of volunteers would undertake, removing plants and vines and branches, and creating wood chips for the landing area of the rock-climbing wall.

In a statement provided by the district, Cancilla said that any undertaking can be made manageable with the right approach.

“When you have a big project, whatever it may be, break it down into small steps, get a good team to help you, and it will be easier to finish,” Cancilla said. “It is OK to ask for help and admit you don’t know the answer to every question.”