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When he joined Cub Scouts in the fourth grade, Thomas Gala set out to earn his Eagle rank by age 14. After years of service projects, trips, and leadership development, Thomas met his goal when he was awarded his Eagle Scout status on Oct. 15!

Now a 9th-grader at Ohio Virtual Academy (OHVA), online schooling has helped Thomas to achieve his Scouting goals more quickly than he would at brick and mortar school.

“OHVA has really elevated his Scouting experience,” says Thomas’s mom Michelle, who serves as a troop leader and whose older son is also at OHVA.  “It has allowed him to achieve things at the pace he wanted to do them.”

When Thomas enrolled at OHVA – also in fourth grade – he saw right away that online school and Scouts were a perfect match. Many of his online classes and activities corresponded with requirements for badges and awards, and many of his Cub Scout accomplishments were made possible because he was working on related topics during classes and at other OHVA opportunities.

Along with their Den leader, also an OHVA parent and Learning Coach, Michelle used science experiments and lessons from K12 to teach the Cub Scouts about weather, conservation, recycling and more. Monthly OHVA outings at a local ice rink led Thomas to earn the Boy Scouts’ ice skating belt loop. His flexible school schedule meant he could attend classes through the local parks department, helping him earn awards in chemistry, forestry, fishing, and astronomy. Michelle says, “At a traditional school you don’t know that balance, or it isn’t as readily available.”

For his Eagle Scout project, Thomas installed four Blessings Boxes in and around his hometown. The boxes provide community members in need with personal supplies and nonperishable foods, free of charge. A complex construction and service project, installing the boxes meant establishing local partnerships, collecting supplies, and building the boxes. Since being installed, the boxes have been received with gratitude by local citizens.

Beyond his Blessing Boxes, Thomas has earned 36 merit badges – 15 more than the 21 required for Eagle status. This puts him on track to earn all three Eagle Palms before his 15th birthday – an honor typically bestowed on older Scouts, well after they earn their Eagle rank.

Thomas also makes time for exciting Scouting adventures away from home. Thomas tested his leadership skills on the trail at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, where he served as the Wilderness Gia (guide) on the 8-day horseback trek with his Venture Crew, another Scout group. He and 10 other scouts and four adults went on day-long rides through high elevations and over tough terrain. The group made incredible memories as they explored an old gold mine, tried their hand at roping and shooting, and experienced stunning landscapes and wildlife.

All that, and Thomas still makes time to be a great student, as a member of OHVA’s chapter of the National Junior Honors Society. Michelle says OHVA has helped her children achieve amazing results. “The biggest thing that I love about the program is that is has allowed us to raise dedicated, self-motivated students.”

Check out some photos from Thomas’s adventure in New Mexico, as well as his Blessings Box!

Photos courtesy of Michelle Gala.

About The Author

Emily Riordan

Emily Riordan joined Stride as Senior Manager, Corporate Communications in July 2017. Prior to joining the team, Emily was a founding staff member at the U.S. Green Building Council’s Center for Green Schools, working with school stakeholders across the country to advocate for healthy, safe and sustainable schools. Emily has also worked with the District of Columbia charter school movement, assisting with charter applications, development and advocacy efforts. Originally from a small town in Massachusetts, Emily has lived in the DC area for half her life, having earned her bachelor’s degree in English at the George Washington University in 2004.

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