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St. Anne's cemetery gets help from an Eagle (Scout)

He is unique.

As part of an elite group, he joins fellow members like former U.S. President Gerald Ford Jr., astronaut Neil A. Armstrong and cinematographer Steven Spielberg.

Add Matt Schmitt, junior at Somerset High School, to that list.

Schmitt has achieved the status of Eagle Scout, the highest ranking in the Boy Scout organization of which only about 2-4 percent of Scouts attain.

But, it was not a surprise to him.

"I've always wanted to finish the things I start," Schmitt said. "Scouting teaches you so much, reaching Eagle is just a by-product."

Schmitt joined Troop 144 when he was in second grade. As the oldest of eight children to John and Kate Schmitt, he always displayed a sense of responsibility and determination.

"He is very self-motivated," said Kate. "He was in St. Anne's school and his class just happened to have a lot of boys in it. So they were all competitive in a good way."

"My younger brother wanted to join Scouting and I didn't want to be outdone by him, so I joined too," Matt said.

For his Eagle project, he decided to look to St. Anne's Church for inspiration. It was his father, who is on the Building and Grounds committee for St. Anne's, who gave him a nudge in the right direction.

"They'd been talking about putting in running water to the cemetery," Matt said. "Then Father Tom said he wanted to restore the flagpole as well."

After sitting down with the church committee and figuring out exactly what needed to be done, Matt drew up plan for his Scout leaders and the church committee's approval.

He said the actual planning took about six months to do, and that was the most difficult part.

"Just sitting down and doing it," Matt recalled. "Writing it grammatically so it made sense and I had to add more and more detail. They wanted to know exactly how I was going to do it and where I would get the stuff."

He did receive a few donations, but the majority of the money came from a church fund for cemetery upkeep. Matt estimates the entire project of repairing the flagpole, extending electricity for 24 hour illumination of the flag, and adding a line of running water out to the cemetery costed between $700-$800. The actual labor time was only three to four days.

Adding this project to his schedule wasn't easy, as he already is involved in Somerset High School track, National Honor Society and St. Anne's Church. In addition to his academic work, he also has two part-time jobs with Standi Toys and Anez Party Rental.

Candidates for Eagle Scouts must complete 21 merit badges and successfully complete a community, church or synagogue-related service project. Matt earned 28 merit badges and finished his project in record time.

The Scouts held a ceremony in his honor on Feb. 15 at St. Anne's Catholic Church. Rep. Ann Hraychuck and Sen. Sheila Harsdorf presented him with a flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol.

Matt plans to continue his involvement with the Scouts as Junior Assistant Scoutmaster for the troop until he turns 18 years old. He already has some ideas that he would like to see implemented.

"I always liked going on camp outs and over the past years, we've not done as much," Matt said. "Also, our troop used to be small and now it is growing - I want to keep it going as smoothly as it used to."

His mother said Matt is an inspiration to her family as well: three of the boys are in Boy Scouts, two of the girls are in Girl Scouts while the two youngest are only 3 and 1 years old.

"Our second son (Pete, 16) is close to start working on his Eagle Scout project," Kate said, "and the next two brothers anticipate earning their Eagle Scouts as well."