Lenny Luizzi says that he and his wife Marie remember the moment when, after forming a new Boy Scout troop in Hoboken 32 years ago, they thought to themselves, “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if we had an Eagle Scout one day?”
Well, 30 years later (the troop is officially recognized as forming in 1984, though the idea sprouted in ’82), Hoboken Boy Scout Troop 146 has produced 19 Eagle Scouts, and three more of its members are on the projected path to the national organization’s highest rank.
“Our last Eagle Scout was a Muslim, our troop leader is Jewish, we’re sponsored by the Catholic church.” – Leonard Luizzi, on the diversity of the local troop
There are also discussions about what’s called “scout’s honor,” a series of 12 pillars that a scout must learn to practice in his daily life and a period of game playing toward the end of the meeting. Once a month, winter or summer, the troop goes camping.
Last Tuesday was a particularly special meeting for Troop 146. The troop elected one of its members, Adam Gellman, 15, into the Order of the Arrow, an honor society within the larger organization. And Sean Evers, 17, one the troop’s oldest members, moved one step towards attaining the rank of Eagle Scout. But the challenge is on for Evers, who turns 18 in June (scouts must reach Eagle Scout by 18, or else they’ve missed their chance).
A Hoboken history
Troop 146 was once one of six like it in the mile-square city, but today is the only one left standing. Luizzi, who used to be the head of the library’s historical association and has served as the city’s historian, said that he started the troop because of political tension in the city.
“I wanted there to be a place where kids could go where they’d be judged equally on their own merits,” he said. “I didn’t think kids should pay for what their parents said.”
The troop was originally composed of mainly white kids from middle class families until Luizzi and his wife diversified it by recruiting new members in the city’s low-income housing projects. Now, it’s one of the most diverse troops in the county.
“Our last Eagle Scout was a Muslim, our troop leader is Jewish, we’re sponsored by the Catholic church and we hold our ceremonies in a hall owned by the Lutherans,” said Luizzi. “If that’s not bringing people together I don’t know what is.”
Norman Kasser, the troop’s leader, said that diversity isn’t the only important lesson Boy Scouts learn as part of Troop 146. Each of the requirements listed in the scout’s oath – that a scout be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent – helps turn boys into men.
“When they’re kids, saying the words is just that, saying a bunch of words,” Kasser said. “But as they get bigger, around 12 or 13, you really start to see them understanding what each of the things means and incorporating them into their lives, and that’s a special thing to see.”
Stars of the troop
Evers, who attends Hoboken High School, and Gellman, who goes to McNair Academic High School in Jersey City, have both been with Troop 146 for several years. When asked what makes being part of the organization worthwhile, both said they enjoyed the challenge of growing up according to a stated code as well as guiding younger scouts along the same path.
“This is about helping other people, playing a role in your community, and teaching other scouts about the legacy of what we’re doing here,” said Evers.
Gellman said of all the troop’s activities, he enjoys the outdoor ones the most.
“Wilderness survival was a good one, I did that at summer camp last year,” he said. “We got sent out and had to build a shelter and sleep in it overnight.”
Both scouts have promising futures. Evers, who currently heads a project that sends care packages to soldiers from Hoboken serving overseas, will graduate from Hoboken High in June and head to the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia in the fall. And Gellman is well on his way to achieving Eagle Scout status of his own.
“The outdoor stuff is fun, but as I get older I’m starting to realize that this is about real-life skills,” he said. “Most of this stuff is learning how to be a successful adult.”
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org