It took nine months and a three-hour drive to make this Killeen project happen, a life-sized checker board with custom pieces.
This is part of 16-year-old McKinney resident Caleb Lopez’s Eagle project, one of the requirements to attain the rank of Eagle Scout; the highest achievement obtained in the Boys Scouts of America program.
Lopez, currently at Life Scout status, built the game board at Oak Creek Academy, an inclusion private school from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade, in Killeen.
“My mother is a big supporter of the school and I love how it provides all four (educational) therapies to students,” Lopez said.
Maira Rivera, Lopez’ mother, learned about the school through childhood friend Tracy Hanson, who founded Oak Creek.
“For the last six years, I ran a facebook campaign collecting Box Tops labels for local schools and Oak Creek was a recipient for the last two years,” Rivera said. “This school is incredible in helping children.”
Oak Creek, according to Hanson, provides an inclusion program in a non-traditional, student-led school setting, giving flexible learning to meet the pupils needs. The school opened in 2013 and is tuition-funded.
For close to nine hours on Thursday, Lopez along with members of Ellison High School’s Leadership Academy, National Honors Society and National Technical Honors Society, constructed the 16-by-16 foot checkerboard on the campus playground.
Twin sisters Bailey and Mackenzie Bark, both Ellison H.S. juniors, thought the project was a great idea and the kids would love it. Both aspire to attend Texas A&M University after graduation.
First, the group hand painted the board, which started at 9 a.m.
Then, they carefully placed the black and white checkered pattern, also by hand.
Finally the group painted the custom pieces.
Throughout the day, Oak Creek students stopped and made comments on the efforts with the most common shout of “Wow!” as they passed by.
By 5:15 p.m., the group was finished.
“It looks absolutely great,” Hanson said. “This just looks terrific.”
The group agreed the collaboration brought a sense of community.
“I believe that a community is a group of people that make an effort to do better for society,” Chantelle Cancel, 17, said. The high school senior plans to attend the University of Texas at Austin in hopes to become a surgeon.
Fellow Boy Scout and soon to be Lamar University student Joshua McGinnis was on hand Thussday. He, too, is working on a Eagle Project of his own.
“I think it’s a great project that will be used for a long time,” he said.
His mother, Karla McGinnis agrees. “This is a multi-generational project and way to bring the golden friendship. It’s something like this that bring a community together. That is what Oak Creek is all about.”
As the group cleaned up the area and packed to head home, Lopez and his mother took one last look at the final product before their trip back north.
“I am truly proud of him, no other words, I knew he could do it,” she said.