Scout sprouting wings toward Eagle status

Supervisor Don Knabe honors Aaron Espinoza, 12, of Whittier, with a certificate of appreciation for his community service work at Schabarum Regional Park, during Concert in the Park the 2010 Family Series, at Schabarum Regional Park in Rowland Heights, Tuesday, August 10, 2010. (Correspondent Photo by James Carbone)

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ROWLAND HEIGHTS - Aaron Espinoza went to the bench for his Star Scout status. The park bench, that is.

He and a team of 16 volunteers repainted and refurbished about a dozen benches at Schabarum Regional Park in January and for his efforts was awarded the rank of Star Scout and was lauded Tuesday night by Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe.

"When you give back to your community it makes you feel great," Aaron, 12, said. "It feels good to make our public areas look better."

He organized the service project with the help of his parents, Maria and Tony Espinoza, to receive his Star Scout ranking and be on a accelerated path toward his ultimate goal: Eagle Scout.

His 16 helpers consisted of parents and boys from his troop, which meets Monday nights at Faith Lutheran Church in Whittier.

Revamping the benches took participants seven hours. The paint and primer for the project was supplied by the park, while the boys brought scrapers and brushes.

Knabe presented Aaron and four other boys with a certificate for their hard work at the opening ceremony of Schabarum Regional Park's Summer Concert Series.

"The Scouts have been a major part of the overall improvement of Schabarum Park," Knabe said. "These young men were able to successfully rally over 100 volunteers to help with the projects, and I couldn't be more thankful for their service and dedication."

Aaron used the opportunity to thank Knabe for paying for buses that took Boy Scouts to the Puente Hills Skyline Trail, a 20-mile hike through La Habra Heights and surrounding areas. Aaron has completed the hike twice over the past year.

Aaron has been in Boy Scouts since age 6 and is working hard to attain his goal of Eagle Scout, the highest rank in Scouting, before he turns 14. More important to the eighth-grader at Rancho Starbuck Intermediate, he wants to become an Eagle Scout during President Barack Obama's first term.

"Obama is a hero to me," Aaron said. "He's the United States' first black president, and he's a very intelligent man and great speaker. Whatever he wants, he goes and gets it."

Aaron is on track to receive his Eagle Scout rank within a year, just in time for his birthday and the end of Obama's first term.

His Whittier Regional Troop 54 leader, Lonnie Wold, is proud of all Aaron has accomplished.

"Aaron is a very good-natured young man," Wold said. "He has received a great honor, and I feel very proud of him."

jessica.donnelly@sgvn.com