Raising a flagpole, saving a life
Scouting and education change boy’s life
Chris Bailey, a student at the Mead Educational Alternative Division High School and a member of Boy Scout Troop 288 at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Colbert, wanted to give back to his school, his community and to others who believed in him.
About six months ago, as part of his Eagle Scout project, Bailey decided his school needed a flagpole. It has not had one in its 20 years as a school. “Every public school should have a flagpole. I’m patriotic and I wanted to give them something in return,” he said.
But his story is not just about getting his Eagle Scout rank; it’s about how he’s turned around his life and gained a future, a family and a chance at life.
When Bailey was 13 and living in Portland, he went searching for a place where he belonged.
“My dad was never around and my mom had her own problems,” he said.
He ended up with the wrong crowd, a gang in northeast Portland, where he got into drug trafficking and moving guns.
“Other kids were there for their next high, I was there to make money. I thought I was living the star life,” he said.
Bailey’s family saw a need for change. In the summer of 2009, his grandfather invited him to teach BMX racing to kids at Camp Cowles at Diamond Lake, where he was introduced to Boy Scouts. “I wasn’t heavy on the Scouting part,” he said.
Eventually, his parents split up and Bailey, his mom and his brother and sister moved to Walla Walla. But, the gang wasn’t ready for Bailey to move on. They found him on Facebook and five members followed him to his new home. “It’s blood in to get in and killed to get out; most don’t get out without getting killed. I got lucky,” he said. He was beat up, but promised he would never reveal their identity and that was the last he heard or saw of them.
Bailey could see a future in Scouting and kept going back to Camp Cowles, where he met his boss and scoutmaster Ed Rosell.
“We spent a ton of time together. He just started becoming more and more like a dad,” Bailey said.
Rosell gave him confidence not only in Scouting, but also in himself. Rosell also gave Bailey a home when he moved in with him in August 2010.
“I knew I could help him. He’s a good kid. He needed to know he was a good kid,” Rosell said.
Rosell made it clear when he moved in with him that he would go to school. Bailey took online classes through the Insight program, but his coursework lasted less than a semester.
“I couldn’t do it by myself,” he said. Then, he interviewed with M.E.A.D. “It woke me up; this is what I need to be doing.”
“M.E.A.D. clicked for him; it was his last chance. Chris wouldn’t be the same kid he is today,” Rosell said.
Bailey said that he’s learned from his mistakes. The flagpole was a gift to his school and an opportunity for Bailey to earn the Eagle Scout rank. He held a car wash to raise funds for the project and was able to get all materials, including the cement and landscaping donated and also coordinated help from his troop, family and friends to put in the flagpole and landscape the courtyard of the school.
“I feel that I gave back to the community that helped me, and I couldn’t have done it without them. I’m glad that I get to do this,” Bailey said.
Curtiss Barville, Bailey’s adviser, said he’s cheerful, engaging, a good student and reliable.
“Chris seems to like a good challenge. That’s nice to see. Chris saw a need. It meant a lot to him and it gives him an opportunity to teach students,” he said.
Bruce Olgard, principal of alternative education programs in the Mead School District, said, “We had a heart to heart about what I expected. I don’t know if it was the time of year or the talk we had, but he got it (the flagpole) done in three weeks. All of the sudden things started happening. Most every student wants to be proud of their school. When somebody does something like Chris’ project, it’s a motivator. It’s modeling for other students.”
Bailey said his journey has just begun, and it’s his responsibility to give back. “You want to live life where you can look back and realize that you’ve lived life the way that life was meant to be lived and you don’t regret your decisions,” he said.
Rainey Coffin can be reached at (509) 927-2166 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.