AYER - June 7 is graduation day for the seniors of Ayer-Shirley High School. For the class of 2019, it's a culmination of four years worth of work and many prior years of education with life-long value. For eight specific members of that class, it will be the second ceremony they attend that stands as a culmination of their hard work over the years and the life-long lessons they picked up along the way.
Those eight students earned the rank of Eagle Scout back in January this year. Those eight students are not only graduating from the same school at the same time, but they've been scouts together since they were young kids. It's a true moment of serendipity, but not something entirely surprising given how they're also friends inside school halls.
"We're all part of the same class so you end up knowing everybody," Matthew Blood of Ayer's Troop 3 said last week. "I don't really know how to describe it. We're all happy for each other and we all talk to each other about scouts. We didn't realize how difficult this was until later."
The scouts seem to have had similar experiences: long-time members of their respective troops who started when they were all young kids. Scott Houde, clerk for the Ayer Board of Selectmen, was a Den leader for six of the graduating boys when they were Cub Scouts, monitoring them as they did fun outdoor activities mixed with learning general life skills. According to Houde, those include lessons on "personal management," "right versus responsibility as a citizen" and respecting the opinions of others.
"Everyone was a little different," Houde said. "We had a great group of boys and a great group of parents to help keep them engaged."
Blood said that he joined up when he was in Kindergarten because his older brothers were scouts. Ryan Kilcommins, another member of Troop 3, said he first joined in second grade because his friends were involved.
"Scouts are trustful and loyal," Kilcommins said. "You learn stuff that helps you become a good citizen. It provides a good base, or foundation. It kept me engaged."
Like all Eagle Scouts, the boys had to perform a service project that would better their community. Kilcommins said he built three benches with a concrete base for them at Pirone Park after spending his younger years playing sports at the park. Blood said he built flower boxes at Sandy Pond Beach after hearing that Ayer Parks Director Jeff Thomas was interesting in building them. Eric Gravelle, another Troop 3 scout, not only spent his years being a scout and diligent student, he also was a Level 1 USA archery instructor and did archery at the Harvard Sportsmen's Club. He said that as a way to give back to the club, he cleared 70 yards of distance for the archery range, built three-dimensional targets for the range and built a bow rack.
"It all went pretty good," Gravelle said. "It felt good to be done but it was weird to know I was done. Basically it was like the end of the road."
The scouts have big plans after graduation day. Kilcommins said he's attending College of the Holy Cross to major in either political science or history, while Blood said he's attending UMass Lowell for mechanical engineering. Gravelle said he's attending Mount Wachusett Community College for engineering and physics. Despite the distance, all three scouts said they plan to stay involve in scout activities while at college.
"It's definitely nice to do this together," Kilcommins said. "I knew I'd have at least one of those guys here. There's a real bond between us."
Jon Winkler: jwinkler@ nashobavalleyvoice.com