2023 top NCCS Scholarship awardee: “I believe that to lead is to serve”

Catholic Scout Jack Gros from Oakland, California is deeply committed to serving others, his parish community and protecting the environment. The pandemic pushed Jack into a leadership role – keeping his Scouting unit alive during the many dark months of restrictions and helping his fellow Scouts learn, grow and have fun during the darkest days.

Throughout my Scouting career, I have been thrown into new positions and situations that pushed me far outside of my comfort zone. During the pandemic, I was asked by my Scoutmaster to lead our troop through the difficult times ahead,” said Jack. “I recognized that keeping the community anchor of Scouting as a part of people’s lives while we were trapped at home was incredibly important and I worked hard to keep it going.”

Jack and fellow Scouts standing on trail with hand tools and lumber

Jack also took on the extremely challenging project of building a 160 foot long fence to protect a local environmentally sensitive creek – all without the benefit of power tools, per city regulations.

The area around the creek in Dimond Canyon Park has been the focus of a multi-year habitat restoration project including replanting the banks for the creek with native species to prevent soil erosion,” explained Jack. “The fence was critical to the process of the restoration project as it kept people and dogs on the trail, preventing it’s widening and protected the new plantings.”

While digging fence post holes by hand may seem like a pretty daunting task, Jack said that one of the most challenging aspects of the process was figuring out how to get the fence project approved. A local environmental organization, Friends of Sausal Creek, fully backed the project, but getting city sign off was anything but easy.

Jack and fellow scouts stand with hand tools in front of forested trail area

In addition to my project being important from an environmental standpoint, my Eagle project helped Friends of Sausal Creek streamline and reduce the time to get projects approved by the City of Oakland,” said Jack. “Prior to my project, Friends of Sausal Creek did not have a documented process for working with the city to approve fence projects. Part of my project was to determine the approvers, the process for requesting approval and obtaining approval.”

Jack also stands out in service at his home parish of Corpus Christi, where he earned the Sophie Corder Service Award for Outstanding Service to the school and parish in 2019.

“There is a lot of need in my community, as in most cities and states. I feel fortunate that I have enough to eat and a place to sleep, but I know there are many who don’t. I have been truly fortunate to have grown up in the Corpus Christi Community, where service is woven into all aspects of school and parish life. From the first grade, we would work on a service project each year, and it became second nature to me,” said Jack.

Jack also launched a new holiday tradition with the St. Mary’s Center Holiday Cookie box project. He is proud that his troop is carrying on this legacy of service he started in 2020.

Jack and fellow Scouts stand holding boxes of cookies wrapped up for unhoused people in his community

“One of my favorite activities is making Christmas cookies with my mom. We have been doing that since I was very young. During the Christmas season of 2020, when we were all isolated due to the restrictions during the COVID pandemic, I wanted to share our cookies with the St. Mary’s Center, which is a shelter for homeless seniors.

For many years my troop had volunteered to cook and serve dinner there on Christmas, and of course that couldn’t happen in 2020. But there was an opportunity to drop off prepared food to be distributed and I wanted to include cookies with that delivery. And I knew it was an opportunity to get my troop involved as well. I organized the first annual troop bake-off. I asked those who wanted to participate to drop off 36 cookies to share–35 for the seniors and one to be judged. We ended up with over 850 cookies–24 people participated.”

Jack also participated in and later helped lead a faith-based retreat at his high school.

Jack and group of fellow Scouts preparing for a procession in a church

As a junior at Bishop O’Dowd High School, I was fortunate to go on a Kairos retreat which focuses on deepening one’s faith, identity, relationships, and connection to God’s role in our lives. It was a powerful experience and it motivated me to want to provide the next class with the same rich experience I had. In my Senior year, I had the opportunity to be the Youth Leader for the Kairos. My Kairos leadership role reinforced the notion that providing leadership is really about service to others.”

In 2023, NCCS awarded 10 college scholarships totaling $27,000 nationwide to recognize Scouts for outstanding service and leadership. The National Catholic Committee on Scouting awarded Jack a $5,000 scholarship through the Emmett J. Doerr Memorial Scout Scholarship Fund for his service in four areas: Church, community, school and Scouting. Jack is now attending the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.

“One of the most integral things in my life is service,” said Jack “I credit Scouts for this awareness of the impact we can make through service to people, to our community, and to our environment.”

Jack Gros

View eligibility requirements and access the application form for 2024 NCCS Scholarships.

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