Eagle Scout service projects, like a lot of things in life, don’t always go as planned.

But when a Scout learns to stand tall, to pivot, to find a way forward, the lessons learned could be some of the most important they take from Scouting.

Bu Wei He, a soon-to-be Eagle Scout from Troop 73 of Novato, Calif. (Marin Council), was seven weeks into an eight-week Eagle project when the coronavirus hit and shut everything down.

After about five months of planning and gaining the proper approvals, Bu Wei had spent nearly two months teaching kids from low-income families how to play chess — and guiding other Scouts and volunteers as they did the same.

But days before what was supposed to be the final lesson on March 13, Bu Wei learned he’d need to cancel in-person classes for the foreseeable future.

“I felt sad that I wasn’t able to finish the final lesson,” he says. “But my mottos are ‘don’t give up’ and ‘believe you can make it.’”

Bu Wei didn’t give up. Initially, he wanted to continue teaching chess to these underprivileged young people through live online classes. But his project’s beneficiary, North Marin Community Services, said that wouldn’t be possible because some of the class members don’t have reliable internet access at home and wouldn’t always be able to attend live.

Unfazed, Bu Wei shifted his plan and created a series of instructional chess videos, meaning the impact of his work will continue long after Bu Wei receives his Eagle medal.

“I spent a few days designing and making videos,” he says, “and I realized this will help young people have something to do apart from school.”

Bu Wei’s story serves as an excellent reminder to adult volunteers who help mentor Life Scouts working on their Eagle projects. With some projects, there will be bumps along the way. When you help guide the Scout toward a workaround — or even to change the course of their project entirely — you impart a valuable life lesson.

Bu Wei (right) and two of his fellow chess teachers in a photo taken Jan. 31, 2020.

What Bu Wei learned about Eagle projects and himself

  • Follow your passion: Bu Wei loves chess, and he’s really good at it. (He takes classes at the Berkeley Chess School.) So when he was thinking of an Eagle project, he stayed true to himself. “I believed I should work on something I’m very passionate about,” he says.
  • Be a servant leader: “At the beginning of my Scout life, I thought that leadership meant making a team successful through the leader’s decisions and instructions,” Bu Wei says. “After this project, I realized that being a servant leader means serving others. … I believe the success of this project came from the minds and hands of the other Scouts and teachers.”
  • Be brave: The pandemic has taught Bu Wei a lot about bravery. “My big advice to people wanting to complete their Eagle project during this moment is that they should face forward, be brave and be patient to tackle all hurdles,” he says. “It’s easy to say, but it’s a valuable and rewarding experience.”

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