Aaron Becker could have taken an easier way out.
He already had accomplished plenty before seeing his 18th birthday. He was active in City College High School's swim club and soccer team. He was in drama productions. He won a scholarship to spend part of his summer in Japan -- for the second year in a row. When he graduated this year, he was valedictorian of his class.
So when it came time to decide on a project to earn his Eagle award from the Boy Scouts of America, what compelled Aaron to mount a video venture?
"I did something a bit more different because I was hooked on doing something with film," the lanky, brown-haired youth said while relaxing at his northwest Baltimore home. "I am also concerned about the environment."
Aaron's 15-minute video, titled "Our Children, Our Earth," stars students from the Hannah More Center School, a private, non-profit day school for seriously emotionally handicapped adolescents. Located in Reisterstown, the school serves about 100 students ages 12 to 21. Aaron's documentary explores how the students learn about the environment through classroom studies and hands-on projects, such as tending gardens.
It took seven months to complete the project -- and Aaron was working under a deadline. In order to earn the highest award granted by the Boy Scouts of America, the project had to be
completed before the scout's 18th birthday. Aaron finished about two months shy of turning 18. He received his award in August.
Q: Are you one of those "super kids" -- with busy schedules of meaningful projects packed to the hilt?
A: I just do a lot of stuff but I don't do anything perfectly!
Q: Tell me about the Eagle award.
A: To get the Eagle award, you have to organize and develop a project without actually doing the work yourself.
Q: So the point is to demonstrate organizational and management skills?
A: Yes. But also, the project has to have a continual effect.
Q: Give me an example of a "typical" project.
A: Usually a project is something like cleaning up a trail or cleaning up a campsite. The cleanup is done on a big scale. Somebody will go and get 40 or so kids to do the cleanup. Although it is a lot of work, it can be done in one day.
Q: Do you have to get approval to go ahead with the project? If so -- since your idea of a documentary film was very different -- was approval difficult to get?
A: Before you start, you have to get approval from the Boy Scouts of America. It's a big deal. If you don't write it up right, you don't get it approved. It was hard getting approval. The Boy Scouts tend to be very conservative. They were like, "What is this you want to do?" Then their concerns were that I would do it all myself and not get other people involved. Finally, I convinced them that there was no way I could have done this by myself.
Q: Besides the students and personnel at the school, who are some of the others you got to help with "Our Children, Our Earth"?
A: [Author and former television reporter and producer] Susan White-Bowden is very involved with the school. I asked her if she would narrate the film and she did. Also, it originally started out as a slide show. My swim coach from City is an editor at WBAL; he helped put it on video.
Q: What did you learn from the project? Any surprises?
A: That things are always a lot harder than you first think they are. But if you organize it in your head first and plot it out, it makes it a lot easier. I also found out that people are willing to help a lot more than you think. You just have to ask.
Q: What do you hope the film accomplishes?
A: There are three copies. The school has one, the swim coach has one and I have one. They are free to show it around. When someone watches it, I hope they connect with it. You can learn from the Earth and help the Earth. And special education kids may not always be able to do things like math -- but they can do things like this.
Q: Are you off to college next? Do you plan on making a career in filmmaking?
A: I'm going to Pomona College in Claremont, Calif. Film is an interest of mine and I probably will be studying it in a few years, although I look at it as more of a hobby than a profession. Right now, I'm headed toward a career in international relations with Japan.