MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Columbia High School has 12 beautiful new benches — seven made of mahogany — for students to use for outdoor seating as a result of an Eagle Scout project by CHS senior Robert Bryant.
Bryant saw a need for the additional outdoor seating and approached the school’s Home and School Association board in 2016 with a proposal to fundraise for and construct eight benches outside the building, but the benches were so beautiful, functional and needed, that CHS Principal Elizabeth Aaron asked for four more.
“I am thrilled that Robert was willing and able to devote such time and energy to CHS,” Aaron said. “The benches are a testament not only to his leadership in terms of organizing the project, but to his talents as a craftsman as well. They are beautiful.”
Aileen Binder, a professional landscape designer and chairwoman of the HSA’s outdoor beautification initiative, mentored Bryant.
“Robert undertook a project that was broad in scope. He had to maneuver working with many different individuals and groups, engaging in discussions on design, materials and construction, as well as securing sponsors,” Binder said. “The benches are very attractive and the construction is on par with top quality, high-end commercial work. They are a great addition to the school and a wonderful reflection of the caliber of students within our community.”
To get the project off the ground, Bryant presented design options to the HSA board, as well as to school and district administrators. The HSA covered the costs of installation and Bryant presented his idea to potential sponsors and a wood supplier.
To have something to show sponsors, Bryant created a stunning prototype made of Douglas fir and painted in CHS red and black. He traveled with the 95-pound prototype to show as part of his presentation. Mahogany was chosen for many of the outdoor benches, and Bryant, along with fellow Troop 60 scouts, set to work to build them.
Bryant sought additional sponsors and found tremendous support within the community. Many of the benches are dedicated to people in the community.
“It was a challenging project that taught me a lot about woodworking, project management and fundraising,” Bryant said. “It would not have been possible without the great support that I received from Principal Aaron, Aileen Binder, Bill Kyle, the bench sponsors, suppliers and my troop.”
There are now five new benches by the cafeteria, two by the parking area, three near Ritzer field and the ropes course, and two inside the high school.
“If you have chance to drive by CHS in the morning, during lunch or after school, you’ll see them well-used,” Aaron said. “They are a great addition to our campus and to student life. I love seeing students talk to each other instead of being on their phones.”
Photos Courtesy of CHS HSA