Scout’s honor: Fishers teen earns Eagle rank for tree-planting initiative


Only 5 percent of Boy Scouts earn the rank of Eagle Scout, and on March 12 at the Fishers Agripark, Trenton Qualls completed his project to join that elite group.

Qualls, a sophomore at Fishers High School, planted 100 American dogwood trees at the Agripark, along with four American plum trees. The dogwoods will be the first of what he hopes will be many generations of dogwoods grown at the site that the City of Fishers can then transplant to beautify the community.

The plum trees have a deeper meaning. They were dedicated to the memory of two Fishers Scouting family members: Ezra Wellington, a young Scout who died in March of 2022; and Matt Lackner, a Scoutmaster who died just a month later.

“As I was thinking about planting 100 trees, I was thinking this is great way to honor Ezra and Matt Lackner in a way that I think they would approve and a way that is long lasting,” Qualls said during the March 12 ceremony. “It’s a way for their families, close friends and Troop 199 to all be able to memorialize and remember them forever.”

Eagle Scout
From left, Eagle Scout Project Coach Ed Ratts, Troop 199 Scoutmaster Bryan Spellman, Scout Trenton Qualls and Maurice Qualls at the Fishers Agripark. (Photo by Adam Seif)

Family and friends of the fallen Scouts helped plant the four plum trees, with Qualls providing guidance. He then read a poem to close the presentation.

Following the event, Qualls said he chose the project because he thought it was something that could help the community for years to come.

“I chose these trees because they’re easy to uproot from the ground and they’re actually native to Indiana, unlike some other species of trees that are actually destroying the native trees,” he said. “So, it’s easier to produce, easier to export and easier to distribute.”

Qualls said working toward his Eagle Scout rank was a good challenge and a good learning opportunity, He said the memorial trees added a deeper meaning to the project for himself and for the families.

Trenton’s father, Maurice Qualls, said he’s definitely a proud dad.

“I’m really proud and really taken aback by the fact that he chose to do this project,” Maurice Qualls said. “He had like five choices of what he was thinking about doing. They were a range of difficulty and this was probably the most difficult. And, he was also able to use this opportunity to honor the Scouts and scout leader who passed away.”

When a Boy Scout decides to go for their Eagle Scout rank, they have to write a proposal first, and submit it for approval. Troop 199 Scoutmaster Bryan Spellman said that Quall’s proposal was particularly attractive to the approval committee because it’s a conservation project.

“Part of Scouting is outdoors, and we really like and appreciate it when Scouts bring forth a conservation project, especially a renewable conservation project,” Spellman said. “So, this is going to be an Eagle project that Trenton will be able to bring his kids back to and they’ll be able to see it. They won’t see the same trees, because they’ll already have been used and it’ll probably have been several generations worth of trees, but he can come here and say, ‘This is what I built when I was your age. This is what I did and it’s continuing to help the community.’”

Maurice Qualls said the gravel bed his son installed to grow the young dogwood trees is reusable.

“So, it makes it a lot easier and cheaper and more economical for the City of Fishers to be able to plant trees and then transplant them wherever they want them to be,” he said.

In addition to his Scouting activities, Qualls is on the Fishers High School swim team; is a member of the FAST swim club; has attended and served with National Youth Leadership Training; belongs to Firecrafter — a service organization for the Crossroads of America Council; and plays guitar and drums.

The Qualls gave special thanks to Eagle Scout project coach Ed Ratts, Ben Shardlow of urban design at Minneapolis Downtown Council; the Arbor Day Foundation; IMI-Fall Creek; Plaque Maker Plus; Woody’s Warehouse Nursery; Watson Nursery; the City of Fishers and Fishers Agripark; the rest of Troop 199; and everyone who donated to the project.

Trenton at the ceremony
Trenton Qualls leads a group of family, friends and fellow scouts in the Boy Scout oath March 12 at the Fishers Agripark. (Photo by Leila Kheiry)

How it’s done

Earning the rank of Eagle Scout is not a simple process. That’s why so few Scouts achieve that goal. According to the Boy Scouts of America website, Scouting offers a series of challenges for participants to work on at their own pace, along with recognition and rewards for each achievement.

Personal growth is the primary goal.

To achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, Scouts must earn a total of 21 merit badges in specific categories; be active in their troop at the Life Scout rank for at least six months and demonstrate how they have upheld scouting values; and submit a service project proposal for approval. They also must provide a statement of ambitions, and a list of activities where they showed leadership skills.

The project itself must involve planning, development and leadership skills; and must benefit a religious institution, a school or the community.

The Eagle Scout project also must be completed before the scout’s 18th birthday.

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