Lifelong Friends Become Eagle Scouts

Eagle Scouts
(From left) Payton Easterling, Garrett Wynne, Nicholas Ray, Parker Griffin and Jacob Conn, lifelong friends, grew up together in Scouts and each recently qualified to receive their Eagle Scout badge. Courtesy Photo

Persevering Through The Pandemic

For as long as they can remember, a handful of lifelong friends, now seniors at Village Tech School Duncanville, have done pretty much everything together.

So why would it be different for one of the greatest accomplishments of their lifetime?
Jacob Conn, Payton Easterling, Parker Griffin, Garrett Wynne and Nicholas Ray each qualified to receive their Boy Scouts of Eagle Scout badge together in a ceremony on Jan. 30. All are 18 years old, except for 17-year-old Nicholas.

They have grown up together in Scouts, starting as Tiger Cubs in Pack 89 in 2009. In fifth grade, they all crossed over to Troop 520 in 2014.

And, in 2020, they all helped each other with work on their individual respective Eagle Scout project, setting an example of perseverance in the time of a COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have gone through school together and scouts too. This has built us a strong base that has helped us grow, and we have shared a lot of life experiences already that have made us ready to go out and live our lives, but always have someone to call when future issues come up. I am a luck guy,” Wynne said.

Their individual projects were:

  • Conn – He made a donation box for Tri-City Animal Shelter because they had extra food and instead of wasting it, they wanted to help the community.
  • Easterling – He created a landscaping and beautification project at First Methodist Church in Cedar Hill. This is his home church as well as the sponsoring church for the Troop. His project involved cleaning out a large flower bed containing overgrown bushes. He fixed the drainage system to better runoff to prevent flooding into the building. His project involving planting new plants and trees as well as placing two 1,600-pound boulders and three cubic yards of lava rocks. He continues to maintain the flowers and beds in this area.
  • Griffin – He led two groups of scouts and adults, one group for landscaping and another group to relocate a pergola at the Pet Cemetery in Cedar Hill.
  • Ray – His was a landscaping/beatification project. He installed a flagstone/decomposed granite patio at his home church, Faith Bible Church in DeSoto. This project enabled the church to move their picnic tables to a non-muddy area for use as an outdoor space for their children’s program and homeschool co-op.
  • Wynne – At Cedar Hill State Park, he did a Penn Farm Amphitheater update. Penn Farm is used for educational purposes for this area. He worked with the park manager and district manager to design and then have installed a laser-cut metal backdrop to the stage area. He also help clean up entire area, and added and spread out Texas granite to all pathways.

Friendships That Go The Distance

Conn said that, along with accomplishing the goal of completing their Eagle Scout projects, they learned that working with your best friends makes work a lot more fun.

“It means we can get work done and still have fun, and even through the ups and downs we all stuck together,” he said.”I think it is good that we all found the right friend group into which to fit, because friends who encourage and support each other help to keep us each motivated as we work towards our individual goals,” Easterling said. “I hope these friendships continue beyond college and that we all remain as close as we are today.”

After graduation in May, Easterling plans to get his EMT certification and begin college in the fall at either Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches or Tarleton State in Stephenville, where he will pursue an education in kinesiology. He plans to follow that with a degree in physical therapy.

Ray is learning how to put together and to repair computers. He plans to go to college in the fall to pursue a computer science degree, and is considering attending Sam Houston State in Huntsville.

Wynne is learning how to scuba dive, and is considering a career as an oceanic engineer.

He plans to start college at Tarleton State and possibly transfer to Texas A&M-Galveston.
Conn and Griffin haven’t announced college plans yet, but Conn said he is looking into welding, automotive repair, and getting a degree in business, while Griffin wants to work on his lawn care business and become a successful businessman.

The Impact of Scouts

“As Payton’s mother, I am so pleased with the friendships he has built and maintained with his fellow Eagles. These are all really fine young men, and I love each of them,” said Tammy Easterling. “It has been so fun to watch how the boys have always been there for each other and how they have each grown and matured. I pray that these friendships continue through college and into life beyond.”

Angel Griffin added, “I feel that scouting has developed Parker into a young man who had become a successful leader – not only in scouts but in his life as well.”

Toni Ray said Scouting provided the right environment for Nick to learn new skills, experience many fun adventures, and ultimately broaden his understanding of life.

“Scouting has helped him develop leadership skills and confidence that will help him as he moves into his adult life,” she said.

And all indicated a desire to remain in Scouting in some capacity as they continue into adulthood. In fact, Payton Easterling is currently serving as an adult leader with Troop 520 and said he looks forward to teaching Scouts to work toward merit badges.

“Depending upon how things go with college, I plan to participate in special troop events,” Wynne said. “I also plan to encourage my future kids to be Scouts.”

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Rick Mauch
Rick Mauch is a veteran of more than four decades in the media. He began writing in high school and immediately went into broadcasting for almost a decade after graduating, working his way to morning drive in Birmingham, Alabama. However, realizing how much he missed writing (though he did continue to do some during his time in top-40 radio), Rick returned to what he loved and has been doing it ever since. Rick's career has spanned a plethora of media outlets, including community journalism, sports, entertainment, politics and more. He's worked in print, broadcast and online media. He also spent several years doing public relations for a children's home in East Texas - still writing on the side, of course. When he's not writing, Rick loves to play golf and do Bigfoot research. He's an avid believer. He also made his first hole-in-one in June of 2020. Rick is married to Junell Mauch. They have five children and three granddaughters