On wings of Eagles: Starkville teen overcomes obstacles to earn Scouting's highest honor

 

David Bouchard earned his Eagle Badge in Boy Scouts in May despite being born blind. Here, he holds a photo of his late father Dennis Bouchard Sr., also an Eagle Scout, with his mother, Wingfield Bouchard, at their home in Starkville.

David Bouchard earned his Eagle Badge in Boy Scouts in May despite being born blind. Here, he holds a photo of his late father Dennis Bouchard Sr., also an Eagle Scout, with his mother, Wingfield Bouchard, at their home in Starkville. Photo by: Tanner Imes

 

Tim Pratt

 

 

STARKVILLE -- David Bouchard lives at the end of a cul-de-sac in the Timber Cove community off South Montgomery Street.

 

The Starkville High School senior answers the door at the well-kept home with a handshake and a smile, and walks carefully, though familiarly, around the brick, two-story structure with relative ease. He reaches out with his hands to find door frames, steps gingerly around tables and other furniture, and appears to know every square inch of the property. Yet, he does it all without the gift of sight.

 

Bouchard was born blind and has spent all 18 years of his life overcoming obstacles. He will be awarded Sunday at Trinity Presbyterian Church for overcoming one of them.

 

 

Bouchard recently completed a project at Starkville High to earn the Boy Scouts of America''s Eagle Scout ranking. Along with the 25 merit badges Bouchard has earned since he joined Boy Scouts in sixth grade, he recently replaced an estimated 60 to 70 signs at the high school, whether they displayed room numbers, names, buildings or directions, with new signs that included Braille.

 

Bouchard said he chose the project to "make the school a little less confusing" to visitors and new students.

 

Some of the old signs at Starkville High already had Braille -- a system of bumps which blind people use to read -- but not all of them, Bouchard said. And some of the old signs that did have Braille were located above doorways, Bouchard said.

 

"You''d have to be pretty tall to reach them," he said. The new signs are at chest level.

 

Bouchard estimates he put in about 200 hours worth of work on the Eagle Scout project, including planning, meetings and installation, but says it was worth the effort. He is following in the footsteps of his father, Dennis Bouchard, who earned his Eagle Scout ranking at 14 years old. Dennis Bouchard died in 1998.

 

"Knowing that his dad was an Eagle was one of the things that kept David going," said Wingfield Bouchard, David''s mom. "Being an Eagle is a lot of work. You have to keep going at it. I think knowing that his dad and his dad''s family -- David has a half-brother who is also an Eagle -- I think that contributed to him wanting to keep at it."

 

David Bouchard agreed.

 

"I just didn''t want to quit until I got my Eagle," he said.

 

Bouchard plans to graduate from Starkville High in December. He hopes to attend the Louisiana Center for the Blind in Ruston, La., for six to nine months, where instructors teach things like cane travel, home management and other skills to help students become self-sufficient. After that, he hopes to attend Middle Tennessee State University, where he plans to major in audio production and music.

 

Bouchard plays the trumpet in the Starkville High School band and this year was the first blind student to make the Mississippi Lions All-State Band, he said.

 

Wingfield Bouchard couldn''t be more proud of her son, not only for the All-State honor, but also for achieving the Eagle Scout ranking.

 

"I''m just very proud that David persevered and was able to be so well-accepted by his peers in (Boy Scout) Troop 27, and by the leadership of Troop 27," she said. "They''ve been a great troop. They did not deter David from any activity."

 

The 18-year-old Bouchard completed activities like a 150-mile ride on a tandem bicycle, a one-mile swim, lengthy hikes, canoe rides and other adventures. Troop 27 Scoutmaster Artis Ford said it has been a joy to work with Bouchard.

 

"I can say having David as a scout in my troop has changed my definition of normal," Ford said. "Being blind is normal for David. He has taught me blind people are just people. It''s we sighted individuals that often place obstacles in their way."

 

"I am proud of David''s accomplishments, but I remind myself that we shouldn''t look at David like he''s a novelty," Ford added. "It''s true that, being blind, he has to work two to three times as hard to succeed in a world designated for sighted people. He''s a great guy regardless of his sight."

 

According to Ford, only 2 percent of all Boy Scouts earn their Eagle rank.

 

David Bouchard also has a sister, Jonte, who is blind and attends the University of the South. Wingfield Bouchard over the years has become accustomed to dealing with her children''s blindness.

 

"The way that we have viewed blindness is it''s more of an inconvenience," Wingfield Bouchard said. "Given the education and the technology access and opportunity, David will succeed in anything he wants to do."

 

Bouchard will be honored for his Eagle Scout ranking 2 p.m. Sunday at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 607 Hospital Road, Starkville.

 

 

 

 

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