Leftheri “Teddy” Syrianos with one of the planters he made for the Bridgehampton Senior Nutrition Center for his Eagle Scout project. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.
By Sam Mason-Jones
It has been a long struggle, but Leftheri “Teddy” Syrianos has finally obtained the highest rank in the Boy Scouts of America, that of an Eagle Scout.
Mr. Syrianos, 23, and his mother, Eleni Prieston, said this week that he had received notice from the organization’s Suffolk County Council this spring that his application had finally been approved after six years of work.
Typically, a boy scout must complete the requirements for the Eagle rank by the time he is 18, but Mr. Syrianos, a member of Sag Harbor Troop 455, suffers from Asberger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, which has made it difficult for Mr. Syrianos to communicate.
Mr. Syrianos said his struggle to obtain the rank of Eagle had taught him an important lesson. “If you are challenged, don’t give up,” he said.
“Everything is about communication—from making phone calls to meetings,” said Ms. Prieston.
Like all candidates for the Eagle rank, Mr. Syrianos had to propose a project benefiting the community to the leaders of his troop. He decided to build three large planters, to be placed just outside the Bridgehampton Senior Nutrition Center on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike.
The planters were designed by Mr. Syrianos with help from troop leader Tom Heine, an architect, David Harvey, also an architect and the father of another member of Mr. Syrianos’s troop and Doug Alnwick, a Pierson High School shop teacher. They were constructed over two days in 2012 with help from members of the troop, family and friends, and members of the shop class at school with material donated by Jim Vacey of Water Mill Lumber.
Mr. Syrianos said he took great care in tailoring the design of his planters to the needs of their elderly users. He designed them to be somewhat elevated “so they can plant things and not have to bend over.” he said, adding that he factored in enough space between the planters to provide access for a senior citizen in a wheelchair.
The goal, his mother said, was for the planters to be filled with vegetables the seniors could add to their daily meals at the center, but instead they have been planted with boxwood, andromeda and other deer-resistant plan
“We wanted to provide more than a beautification but an activity and a hobby,” his mother Ms. Prieston added.
But to his surprise, when Mr. Syrianos went to his troop leaders to have his project approved, he was told it did not qualify.
Troop leaders declined to comment directly for this article but provided the following statement:
“To earn the Eagle Scout rank, the highest advancement rank in Scouting, a Boy Scout must fulfill many requirements. We give all our scouts a great deal of support and encouragement as they work through these. At times there may be differences of opinion as to whether the quality or execution of an experience has fulfilled the requirements for a rank. This it why the Boy Scout Guide to Advancement has solid procedures in place for scouts to be able to appeal decisions. It is a fair process and every scout is given due diligence by counselors, leaders, committees and boards of review.”
Mr. Syrianos was not about to take no for an answer. With help from his mother, he appealed the troop’s decision to the county level.
Over the course of an evening in mid-April, Mr. Syrianos stood before the Suffolk County Council, arguing that he required additional support in overcoming his disability, so he could provide the leadership required for the Eagle rank.
The council came down on Mr. Syrianos’s side, agreeing that he had satisfied the requirements. In June, he received his Eagle pin and approval letter.
With his approval in hand, Mr. Syrianos said he can now look forward to planning his Court of Honor, at which an Eagle Scout is officially recognized for his accomplishments. He’s hoping to have it have it this fall.