Sebastian Chlebek, Dylan Esguerra, Brendan France, Andy Sanchez & Lev Working were promoted to the elite Eagle rank of the Boy Scouts of America (photos provided by Sara Araiza).

In an outdoor ceremony held June 6, friends and family watched as five local young men were promoted to the elite Eagle rank of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). All members of Oak Park Boy Scout Troop 20, the five new Eagle Scouts are Dylan Esguerra, Brendan France, Andy Sanchez, Sebastian Chlebek and Lev Working.

“The earning of the Eagle rank is a reflection of eight years of work and camping and service,” said Scoutmaster Larry Cozzi. “And that’s what makes me particularly proud of these kids.”

Becoming an Eagle Scout is the highest accomplishment attainable in the BSA program. Only a small percentage of Boy Scouts progress to Eagle Scout, according to Cozzi, who has been scoutmaster of Troop 20 for about 10 years.

To achieve Eagle rank, scouts are required to earn 21 merit badges and demonstrate their leadership while carrying out a project for the betterment of their communities. This on top of the other responsibilities kids their age handle outside of the Boy Scouts.

“There’s enough to do with school and sports and family and church and all sorts of different things, but they choose to do this,” said Cozzi. “It’s a lot of hard work over many, many years.”

Thanks to the pandemic, two of the new Eagle Scouts waited an extra year to be formally inducted. Chlebek, a 2020 graduate of Oak Park and River Forest High School, and Working, a junior at OPRF, both qualified as Eagle Scouts last year. 

For his project, Chlebek led a group of Scouts, painting four restrooms at the Ascension Church Parish Hall across the street from the main church. Working’s project was in service of the Oak Park Public Library. He and his team cleared out, inventoried and reorganized storage rooms, increasing space for the library.

 “They’ve been more than patient for many, many months,” said Cozzi. “And I was very gratified to see them step up and be acknowledged in front of their family and friends.”

Eguerra, France and Sanchez overcame novel challenges presented by COVID-19 to carry out their individual service projects. A senior at St. Ignatius College Prep, Eguerra steered an effort to clean the yard and parking lot of the Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Museum. 

France, another junior at OPRF, built raised beds for the community garden at Cheney Mansion. By late October of 2020, an estimated 25 pounds of produce came from each bed, according to the Park District of Oak Park.  

Sanchez looked to the sky for his inspiration. The Fenwick High School senior helped protect native wildlife by building birdhouses for wrens, chickadees, swallows and bluebirds for River Forest’s Trailside Museum of Natural History.  

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