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Clemens HS Eagle Scout plants seeds of success

James Winstead, senior at Samuel Clemens High School, has earned the Boys Scouts of America’s highest advancement recognition, the Eagle Scout Award. A member of Troop 512, Winstead helped lead the construction of a garden shed and seed vault that is located at Byron P. Steele High School, where his mother, Amy, serves as a chemistry teacher. It was a project that took 400 hours worth of planning, overview, budgeting, leadership and follow up.


“The Boy Scouts didn’t want us to build it ourselves, but instead guide and lead other Scouts,” said Winstead. The goal of any Eagle project is to teach a young person to lead his peers, and adults, to accomplish something greater than themselves. “I think construction took two weeks. When we were at Steele, we had to level the ground and make sure it was ready to be put there and stay there.”


Each candidate must earn 21 merit badges and successfully complete a service project to earn the Eagle status. Winstead’s shed may be locked, but the seed vault, located on the left side of the structure, is latched, which allows for anyone with food insecurity issues to access the seeds to grow their own vegetables. 


“I don’t think many people know how many students are on the free and reduced lunch program,” he said. “When I was doing my research for the project, I believe there were 1300 district students accessing the program.”


A tall, soft-spoken young man with a mop of curly brown hair, Winstead’s meticulous planning and guidance made it easy for his fellow volunteers to follow his lead.  “He had a binder three inches thick of step-by-step instructions on how this project is going to be done,” said Amy Winstead, awed and proud of her son’s accomplishment. “The schematics and where each nut, bolt and screw is going to go. And this is a kid who won’t pick up his dirty clothes out of the bathroom,” she added with a laugh.


Winstead made overtures for the tool shed/seed vault to different entities throughout the area, including different municipalities and churches, and received no response. As the deadline to confirm the proposal approached, Amy Winstead asked Steele principal Jana Cervantes and associate principal Tracey Bandy if they would consider having it built on their campus. 


“It was a three minute pitch,” she said. “They jumped on board and were so incredibly excited and supportive throughout the whole thing.”  Of course, there was some good natured needling when James would visit his school’s district rival. “The teachers there were like, ‘Oh well, we forgive you’” he said. “It was fun.”


While the tool shed/seed vault will stay, the Winsteads will not be around to enjoy it. A military family, they await transfer orders for Lt. Col. James Winstead of the United States Army, currently an instructor at Fort Sam Houston with a Ph.D. in epidemiology. Four years at one place represents the longest James and his brother, David, an eighth-grade student at Corbett Junior High, have been able to stay at one school. Fortunately, the SCUC Military Student Transition Program has helped the family fit in. 


“I felt like it was home,” Winstead said. “It’s just because of the amazing people here.” Amy Winstead concurs. “When (my husband) is gone, I know I have backup with the kids when they need something with people who understand the situation,” she said. 


James has no idea where he’ll be when the fall of 2023 rolls around, only that he would like to attend a community college and work toward a degree in electrical engineering. His north star, however, will keep him involved in Adventure Scouting, which allows for a supervisory role on younger Boy Scouts. And his Eagle Scout accomplishment will always travel with him, which confers leadership, citizenship, and problem-solving skills that will pay dividends the rest of his life. The Boys Scouts will have no greater advocate. 


“Scouting’s sole purpose is to prepare you for adulthood,” Winstead said. “It provides so many opportunities for growth and fosters that growth. That’s just unimaginably helpful to the individual and the community.”