Jared Dorsey, Garrett Fiss and Noah Fatica, members of Boy Scout Troop 22, were honored in June at an event attended by a former Tampa mayor celebrating the more than 800 collective hours of community service the three put in for their regional betterment projects.
But to the young men, the Eagle Scout medal they received, the highest rank for Boy Scouts, was a rite of passage.
Dorsey and Fiss, both 17 and rising seniors at Plant High School, have been friends since age 2. When they were 7, their parents put them in Scouts.
"At first I don't think we really thought about it, but as we went through the years, it was more our interests, not just because our parents wanted us to," Fiss said. "Now we abide by it in our everyday lives."
Through hackey-sack games and survival skills training, community service and value-based learning, Fiss and Dorsey said the experience in scouting ended up shaping them more than they expected.
"By middle school and high school we were taking on more responsibility," Dorsey said.
At the age of 11, with a wagon, lawn mower and leaf blower in tow, Dorsey and Fiss walked around their neighborhood asking if anyone needed yard work done. The two started a business, Kids on the Move, and by the age of 14, they saved enough for a trailer.
By 16, when Dorsey was old enough to drive, he had saved $15,000 for a truck — something that allowed him to expand the business and hire full-time employees more than three times his age.
Now called "Everything Outdoors," the business operates full time and Dorsey hopes it will pay for his college education, where he hopes to study business.
This past month, Dorsey and Fiss were honored for their project at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street entrance of the Florida State Fairgrounds. Called a Florida friendly learning garden, the project includes a self-guided nature trail with signs explaining native plants donated by the community, explaining much of the local ecosystem to visitors. They were told more than 2 million visitors pass through that entrance each year, and said they hope the site can become a destination for local school field trips, similar to Cracker Country.
"It's important for people to see how food is grown and how certain plants are in their environment," Fiss said.
Though they haven't visited it too frequently after the weeks of 10-hour days spent planting and leveling two winters ago, knowing of its existence is rewarding.
"Knowing that these small steps and goals paid off, it shows you you can be a leader in the community," Dorsey said.
Fatica was honored for creating a pet memorial wall and improvements to the Davis Islands Dog Park.
"Living the way we do, there's more to a youthful life," Fiss said. "Thinking about our actions now will affect us later."