By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — Jake Rutland had barely graduated from Niskayuna High School when his family decided to move this past July. They packed boxes, said their goodbyes and, in two weeks, they were living in a new home.
Rutland and his brother, Zach, who had just completed his freshman year at Niskayuna, welcomed the change of scenery. They loved the 275-acre rural property their family bought a few years ago near Oneonta and were excited to spend more time there.
For Jake, though, there was just one problem: he wanted to finish his Eagle Scout project in Niskayuna, his hometown.
“I started off in Niskayuna,” he said. “I wanted to stay at my roots, basically, and be at my original troop.”
His Boy Scout troop holds special significance for Jake because he helped establish it.
“It got disbanded a while back,” he said of the troop. “My group of friends are the ones that started it back up.”
Along with suddenly being physically distant from Niskayuna, Jake had another challenge: All Eagle Scout projects have to be completed before the Scout’s 18th birthday. The project itself, and all the paperwork, took time to complete as his Nov. 3 birthday approached quickly.
Luckily, the project Jake had already chosen was portable. He had promised to make two large planters where visitors to the Niskayuna Senior Center could garden. Just before the birthday deadline, at the end of October, he rolled the two handmade, carefully stained planters off a truck at the Senior Center.
“We’re very appreciative,” said Rosemarie Mullaney, a coordinator there.
The planters will have to sit in storage during winter, but they promise to enable an exciting new project for the center’s visitors once spring arrives.
“My hope is to get a gardening club together with some of our seniors,” Mullaney said.
“My goal would be to at least have one of them be a vegetable bed and grow salad vegetables and actually be able to harvest them and use them in our meal program.”
Jake has already accepted an invitation to have lunch with the seniors once the vegetables have been harvested.
Until then, he’s excited to shift focus to his next big project.
“I just applied to SUNY Delhi,” he said. “My dream is to become a professional architect.”
If accepted, he’ll start taking classes in January, a few months before tomatoes and lettuce have a chance to sprout back in Niskayuna, but the project’s lessons will still be hearty and fresh.
“I was never the strongest leader,” Jake said. “This project taught me a lot about how to lead people.”
He knows he’ll need those skills once he achieves his dream of becoming an architect. After designing a home, the designer has to communicate his vision clearly and help others understand how to execute it. It’s something Jake is working on.
“I’m one of those people who likes to take control and do everything myself,” he said. “Being a leader, you have to actually let people do it.
“I want to be a director of a big firm, so that’s definitely going to teach me how to direct people and make sure they’re doing what they need to do,” he added.
Even though he embraces his new home and his next challenge, Jake said he’s still very connected to his hometown. In addition to his plan to visit the Senior Center in the spring, he comes back to Niskayuna often to see his friends and his girlfriend. They visit him, too, on the farm near Oneonta where the family raises small animals like rabbits and chickens.
And his other Scout project, the troop he helped bring back, is carrying on the work of building new things around the community.
“It’s going good so far, we’ve got some Cub Scouts in training,” he said.