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Keepers of the Wild

How Scouting Taught Alex and Andrew Noviello to Save the World

“Being a Boy Scout is more than doing ‘outdoorsy’ things, like learning how to camp,” says Andrew Noviello. “I took so much more from it, like learning how to effectively communicate.”

“Plus it teaches leadership, life skills like juggling commitments and provides a fantastic social experience,” adds his twin brother, Alex. To say the Noviello brothers, Bridgewater residents and juniors at The Lawrenceville School, are model Scouts is an understatement. They achieved the rank of Eagle Scout in 2019 as high school freshmen—and then raised the bar even higher, attaining the William T. Hornaday Award for distinguished service in natural resources conservation, a distinction achieved by only six to eight Scouts annually, the following year. But these star members of Troop 46 in Martinsville are setting their sights even higher. 

Tell us about your Eagle Scout projects.

Alex: My project was building two stations on the therapeutic riding trail at the Lord Stirling Stable in Basking Ridge. The first station was a small, elevated herb garden with a roof and chicken wire to protect the plants from deer. Each of the herbs had a different smell, which is useful for sensory applications. The second station consisted of a vertical frame on which six large, rotating boxes were mounted. Each of the sides of these boxes represent shapes, colors or textures, which help to mentally engage the participants and physically challenge them to interact with the stations while riding. 

Andrew: I built a floating dock at Esox Pond at the Lord Stirling Environmental Education Center in Basking Ridge for hands-on education on topics like wetlands ecosystems and conservation. It’s a great way for young students to learn more about wetlands ecosystems. 

How did you earn the William T. Hornaday Award?

Andrew: To earn this medal, Scouts must do four large Eagle-sized projects in areas of conservation. At the Environmental Education Center, I added on to my Eagle Scout project by planting aquatic flora in the center of the docks. I also created predator guards to protect wood turtle eggs and removed autumn olive trees, an invasive species, from the banks of Esox Pond. For my final project, I designed a sustainable way to reduce litter in Washington Valley Park in Bridgewater by providing places to dispose of trash and recycling in bins that are protected from animals and the weather. I also created places for posting educational content about recycling.

Alex: I created a vernal pond at the New Jersey Audubon Society in Bernardsville, owl nesting boxes at the Lord Stirling Environmental Education Center, a stream buffer at the Great Swamp Watershed Association's Conservation Management Area in Harding and removed invasive vines at the Raritan Headwaters Association’s Fox Hill Preserve in Tewksbury.

Conservation is certainly your passion. 

Andrew: Yes! And our conservation journey definitely is rooted in our experience with the Scouting program. While doing our projects, we established the nonprofit Grassroots Conservation to provide expertise and funding for conservation projects throughout the state, including Eagle projects. 

Alex: We created that nonprofit to assist local community-based conservation projects. We feel that it is imperative to involve local communities in conservation efforts. Without that involvement, it’s more difficult to make progress. 

Andrew: We also co-founded the National High School Climate Forum. Our mission is to bring together sustainability and climate-action focused high schools from around the country to exchange ideas. We have about 60 high schools from 25 states. We’ve secured top speakers such as senior executives at General Motors Conservation International, which is one of the biggest conservation nonprofits in the world, and the acting chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, among others.

What is next on your horizon?

Andrew: We're very passionate about technology. We both work for a software development company in our free time and want to study computer science and finance in college. However, we want to continue to do conservation work. Last summer, we were in South Africa doing work including land management, erosion control and data collection on animals. We’re hoping to go back this summer for more conservation efforts. Since technology is key to solving conservation issues, we can merge our two interests. 

Learn more about the Noviello brothers’ initiatives at grassrootsconservationusa.org and nhsclimateforum.org.

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