Shelton Eagle Scout brings school courtyard back to life

SHELTON — Joseph Savino’s plan to build a bench for the Sunnyside School courtyard gradually grew into a large-scale rehab of what had become overgrown and unsightly space.

The longtime Boy Scout and Shelton High senior began this Eagle Scout project in August, and as school opened in early September, the Sunnyside staff and students were welcomed with a newly maintained courtyard, and a branch new bench to boot.

“My project will provide all of the teachers in the school a much nicer view from both their classroom window and during their lunch breaks,” Savino said about the project.

“The redone garden areas and bench will make the courtyard a much more inviting and pleasing area for the teachers to take their lunch breaks and for the students to take mask breaks now and in the future,” he said.

Principal Amy Yost called Savino’s work a true benefit to the school.

“Students can come out and read here, have fun here,” Yost said. “This area had become so overgrown, so unsightly. It wasn’t appealing at all. Now look at it. Kids can take mask breaks here. We can bring them out for singing. With this, students can come out and experience celebrations again.”

Savino chose Sunnyside School as the site of his Eagle Scout project because his mother works there as a special education tutor.

“My original plan was to build a buddy bench for kids to make new friends at,” he said. “However, after speaking with (Yost), I decided to move my focus to the courtyard, which was completely overgrown and unmaintained.”

Savino rehabbed the overgrown garden areas — weeding, reorganizing and planting new plants and bushes, putting down weed barriers, and mulching. He demolished the old, rotten garden boxes and hand-built and installed three new ones.

Lastly, he ordered and assembled a bench for the courtyard.

The new garden boxes will provide Sunnyside’s gardening club a place to grow their vegetables and other plants for years, Savino said.

In total, the project took more than a year to complete, including all the approvals, paperwork, planning, and fundraising needed. The actual work began on Aug. 14 and was completed Sept. 19, some 17 hours altogether, Savino said.

To fund the project, Savino organized a bottle drive at the Shelton Community Center, and then held a sorting event. Other troop members helped out with the work, he said.

After that Savino said he made several trips with his parents to the Stratford Recycling Center. Family members also helped out with donating funds, and the local Home Depot and Lowes stores helped by donating some supplies and selling some plants at a discount.

A member of Troop 55, Savino said he joined scouting when his family moved the Shelton eight years ago. In addition to scouting, Savino is an honors student and member of the National Honor Society and Spanish National Honor Society, plus being a four-year member of the SHS varsity indoor and outdoor track and field teams

His future plans include attending medical school and becoming a doctor.