Attaining the rank of Eagle Scout is the pinnacle of a young person’s journey in the Boy Scouts, the organization that asks members not only to “be prepared” but to “do a good turn daily.”
Participation involves many hours of Troop activities, earning merit badges in various subjects — Citizenship in the World, Citizenship in the Nation, and Citizenship in the Community, amongst others — and committing to leadership training. Cheshire’s Jacob Jalowiec is currently in the midst of this demanding process.
A Cheshire High School junior, he is currently a Life Scout (one rank below Eagle) and seeking to fulfill one of the most important requirements of the qualifying process: “While a Life Scout, plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, any school, or your community.” This service project also must be done before a Scout’s 18th birthday. To that end, Jalowiec is looking to give back to Cheshire’s Parks and Recreation Department as well as the greater baseball-loving community by constructing equipment boxes for parks around town.
“I’ve never really been one to sit inside and play video games,” Jalowiec explained. Rather, he says, Scouting taught him the value of being outdoors and active. While that has often taken the form of outings with the Troop such as whitewater rafting in Massachusetts, camping trips, and fishing, he also enjoys biking on the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail.
And while he has participated in other sports, baseball has become his passion.
“I used to be a good pitcher when I was younger,” Jalowiec admitted, and while he moved to a second base and outfield role recently, he plans to try out for the CHS varsity squad as a pitcher again.
More importantly, Jalowiec wants young people to have the same opportunity to play sports as he did.
Jalowiec has already raised about $1,800 in donations from family and other sources. At about $500 per box, he’s hoping to push that number up if possible.
“I want to start with Cheshire Park, because that’s the one where they’re in the worst shape,” Jalowiec stated, “but we could move on to other parks from there.”
Getting the project done requires not only finding helping hands in the form of donations, but also the approval of Town officials.
Cheshire’s Director of Parks and Rec, John Gawlak, is one key supporter of Jalowiec’s endeavor.
“Jacob has a great idea and understands how important those supply boxes are to the many organizations that utilize the fields at Cheshire Park,” Gawlak said. He added that Jalowiec presented his idea in front of the Cheshire Parks & Rec Commission, where it received “unanimous support.”
Describing the relationships between civic organizations and the Town, Gawlak added, “I have witnessed and experienced residents and organizations rally for each other through many great causes with an awesome community spirit. It certainly makes my job easier to navigate and quite refreshing.”
Jacob’s father, Matt Jalowiec, is a former Scout himself and a volunteer leader with the Troop. He described himself as “beyond proud” of Jacob’s hard work and accomplishments so far.
“He’s been able to balance a lot of the modern distractions and invest time in this,” stated Matt Jalowiec. “It’s about being self-driven because we as parents can’t do it for him and also it’s about knowing that achievements are motivations. If he doesn’t take the initiative, it doesn’t get done. The completion of the project rests on his shoulders and he’s taken responsibility for that.”
Having the support of Troop leadership has been important as well. While many scouting groups have lost momentum and membership in recent years, at least partially due to pandemic restrictions that limited gatherings, Troop 198 gained members, said Matt Jalowiec.
“We were able to meet outdoors, because you couldn’t meet in schools,” he explained. With lanterns and propane heaters, the Troop would gather at spots like Lock 12, keeping the spirit of gathering alive.
Troop 198 Scoutmaster Samantha Olszewski has known Jacob since he was a “quiet” first grade Cub Scout. She reports that it has been “really great watching him grow up” to be a young man with “really strong leadership skills, who took charge” of developing his Eagle Scout project and teaching younger scouts some of the skills he has learned along the way.
“I’ve definitely built friendships through both baseball and scouting,” Jacob said, adding that he has also helped with other Eagle projects that fellow scouts have organized.
Troop 198 scouts have done notable projects around Cheshire over the decades. Visitors to many open spaces around town, such as Ives Farm, Mixville Park, Fresh Meadows and the DeDominicis Preserve, can thank scouts for many improvements to the properties, including bridges, kiosks, benches and walking paths. Other sites of Eagle Scout projects include many churches in the area, and even previous work at Cheshire Park.
Jacob has already begun looking ahead to college, where he is hoping to major in a sports-related field such as physical therapy or nutritional science. But for now his focus is on “helping out the community that helped me get to where I am, as well as trying to better myself.”