Interview With Torey McCleskey - Amazing Eagle Scout
By: Scott Robertson
I read a newspaper article about how you built a reef for your Eagle Project. Can you tell us how and why you came up with making a reef? What did you learn from doing the project? How many Scouts did you have helping you?
I chose to build an artificial reef system because as an avid S.C.U.B.A. Diver of eight years, i have seen firsthand how our world's reefs are declining and that they need help. At a diving trade show i met the guys from the Reef Ball Foundation and started up work with them within a year. Each day i had anywhere from 10 to 20 scouts helping me.
I understand a while back you saved someones from drowning and as a result you were presented with the BSA’s Honor Medal for demonstrating “unusual heroism and skill or resourcefulness in saving or attempting to save life at considerable risk to self”. This award is so prestigious that only 28 were awarded nationwide in 2009.
No question here, but ill tell you i was honored by the medal, it wasnt something i was expecting, and not really something i approved of because i think when younger scouts see me with a shiny medal on they think "Oh cool, how can i get one of those?!?" and really, we don't want anyone getting those because in order to get one someone has to be dying... so as much as i like the thanks that the scouting movement has extended, calling it an "award" doesnt quite grasp the intended message.
What were your proudest moments in Scouting?
One of my proudest moments in recent scouting has to be when i staffed the last CFC course of NYLT, seeing my patrol of participants grow over that week, and really become better leaders and learn all of the material, while still having fun was so inspiring that even after im gone, the youth movement will still live strong
What do you think it means to be a Scout?
I think what it means to be a scout isnt that you go to meetings and wear a uniform, but your really defined as a scout when you arent in uniform, arent with your troop or family; how you react in everyday circumstances, weather you choose to use your training or not; thats what makes you a scout
What would you say are the most valuable skills and lessons you have taken away from your time as a Boy Scout?
Deffinitely leadership. I know in my future i will stand out so well because of the strong leadership skills i have developed through scouts, i use them every day with my friends, my family, my roommate, everything. All that boring stuff in TLT and NYLT about leading yourself and conflict resolution, pay attention, cause it is good stuff
If you could change anything with in the Scouting movement what would it be?
If I could change anything in the scouting movement it would be their stern (stubborn) stance on anti-homosexual policies. I am proudly biased as someone raised with an open mind, but even through the eyes of leadership training, at all levels a very fundamental lesson in boy and adult training is that you don't get to choose who you lead, you may not like the people, or they may smell real funny, or believe in different things, but they still need guidance that only you can give them. It just makes me sad how in these modern, progressive times they stick to an age old agenda, which in turn causes things like Jamboree being kicked out of Fort AP Hill and other public lands, and certain liberal churches no longer being able to have a religious emblem, or to charter a scout troop. These people want to help, and we are turning away free help.
I hear you are going to college is North Florida, what do you plan to study?
I will start August 23rd at the University of North Florida studying Athletic Training and Sports Medicine, a major greatly influenced by my previous experience in first aid from the Boy Scouts of America
I recently read an article ( http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1998-06-20/news/9806190527_1_torey-chris-helped-kindergartner) about you in Kindergarten was befriended by a 5th grade boy name Chris, who became a mentor of sorts. Do you think more Scouts, more people should be more of a friend, rather then a bully, ignoring those younger or smaller then them? Do you still talk to Chris?
Yes, i do still talk to Chris, he is entering grad school at the University of West Florida after graduating last year from the University of North Florida. And i do think people should befriend those "below" them, weather in stature or age or rank. In my troop we had so many incoming new scouts that we couldn't hold them all in a First Year Emphasis Patrol, so we took a great many of them and split them into the other patrols. My patrol, comprised of mostly senior boy leaders in the 15 to 17 year old range were, expectably, not too happy about this. The new boys have no idea of what a tightly bonded patrol we are, and just dont understand the concept, but we try and try again to help them understand and build patrol spirit in them, and one day, they will get it
I was just watching a video on youtube, with you (I think) performing a poem on cancer. It was a really good poem. Do you like writing poetry.
I am a competition Slam Poet, and yes, that was me. Most of my best poetry is not yet filmed, and i am working with a couple of recording companies with features on some small-label records coming out. This is something i entered on a dare about six months ago, and found that it was a great skill that i have. Right now i attend open mics twice a week to perform for fun. I think the best part about it is that i can share my experiences with other people and let them into my life little by little. I would definitely keep your ear to the ground for a poem about being a modern Eagle Scout soon...
What was it like to live on a island for 6 weeks without your parents. What kind of challenges did you have to overcome to make your dream come true?
Those couple of months were by far the best of my life, i absolutely love the island, the people, the geography, the oceans, its a great place. That said, there were still of course many challenges in sending a boy (i was then 15) to a foreign country alone. We used our contacts on the island to place me in an intern house, I already knew from the Scouts how to cook and many other necessary skills. There were immigration laws, and a language barrier ( had to learn two of their native languages while i was there so i could do basic things like go shopping in a grocery store or read directional signs). And being trilingual now is a great life skill. Another big one was that as much as we love America here, it is not the same in other countries. I had to go for weeks before i left to tan so the inhabitants (all of dark skin) would not immediately assume I was american, and adopt a dutch accent soon after arriveing, as well as be seen hanging out in dutch quarters so they would think i was dutch (it is a dutch colony, so there are many dutch there that are liked well enough by the natives)
I read you were a honor student in school, do you have any advice for struggling students?
I am in the honors program at UNF and was magnet-ed in high school. Best advice would be not to get senioritis, because my last year in high school i slacked a little and had to do waaaaaay more work in the end. Of course nobody will take that advice, i know i wouldnt have hahaha
What kinds of things do you like doing? You have any cool hobbies? For example I read that you are experienced in SCUBA diving...
Yes, i am an experienced S.C.U.B.A. diver with nearly 200 dives, its something i love. In addition i enjoy many water sports, distance swimming, water skiing and such. Besides that camping, photography, and poetry is usually enough to keep me busy!
Do you have any advice for young Scouts?
Advice for young scouts would be to be LOUD. I see so many young leaders step up to the plate and think they can lead in a conversational tone. I don't mean yell at everyone, but its called an inside voice for a reason... When your outside, you have to get loud! PROJECT your voice, don't be afraid to be stern, and whenever you get a chance, whip those older boys into shape ;-D