Clinton locals earn Eagle Scout honor

The Clinton Courier

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The Clinton Community Nature Center features miles of beautiful, shaded walking trails, Play Forest, Mud Kitchen, Splashing Frog Water Feature, amphitheater, native plants, Price Hall, popular annual events and programs. The trails are open seven days a week from 7:00 a.m. until sunset!

The Nature Center is owned and operated by the Clinton Community Nature Center Association, Inc., a 501c(3) non-profit organization formed to preserve a precious tract of woods, located right in the heart of Clinton, Mississippi. The Nature Center relies heavily on Supporters, Volunteers, Memberships, and Fundraisers. We strive to conserve our land and historic features while developing a place for the application, enjoyment, and study of nature in all aspects.

The first Eagle Scout designation was awarded by Clinton's Boy Scout Troop #12 in 1941, and two members recently continued that storied tradition by spearheading community service projects to earn the organization’s highest merit badge.

Justice Sandle, a rising college freshman, and John David Hagood, a rising high school sophomore, both became acquainted with the group when they joined Cub Scouts as first graders. After matriculating into the Boy Scout organization between fifth and sixth grades, the young men began their quest for the top honor, which requires twenty-one merit badges, six months as an active Life Scout and participation in a Scoutmaster conference, in addition to the final community service project.

“It’s been a long journey,” Sandle commented of his rise to the rank of Eagle Scout. Hagood concurred, recalling that the accolade had been a goal of his since he first advanced from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts.

Both boys’ projects contributed to the appearance and upkeep of public sites in the area, with Hagood marshaling the remodeling of the screenhouse at the Clinton Nature Center and Sandle leading a refurbishment of the Holtzclaw Cemetery on the Hinds-Utica campus.

Founded in 1903, Hinds-Utica is the oldest of Hinds Community College’s six campuses, and the Holtzclaw Cemetery is located on site. Sandle was first made aware of the cemetery’s need for cosmetic improvements by his Scout leader, who works at the historic institution.

“Nothing had been done [to the cemetery] since 2003,” Sandle said. “So we wanted to refurbish and make sure everything looked neat.” Before embarking on the beautification project, the prospective Mississippi State University student contacted officials, working closely with college representative Jean Greene. “I got in touch with everybody I needed to get in touch with, and then we went from there,” Sandle commented.

After receiving the green-light, the newly-minted Eagle Scout and fourteen of his fellow Scouts repainted the fence, cleaned gravesites and planted azaleas. The effort took most of a Saturday, with the boys working throughout the morning and into the afternoon to complete the task.

Hagood’s project, too, was time-consuming, taking place over the span of a few days, but it was rewarding for the long-time Clinton resident, who often visited the Nature Center as a child.

“We always walked around there growing up, and when I was looking for a project, [the Nature Center] occurred to me. I wanted to give back to it.”

His manner of giving back would quickly become apparent when he noticed the disrepair of the screenhouse, so the Clinton High School student quickly set about completing the paperwork necessary to begin the project and even did some of the preliminary work himself.


Once he was joined by his fellow Scouts for the demolition, more problems were uncovered. “We discovered rotten wood, but we fixed that ourselves and did some pressure washing.

The second day, we were able to put up the screen.” Hagood was quick to point out that the project was not entirely finished, as there are still a few beautification aspects of the screenhouse project remaining.


Once the projects are completed, both boys have high hopes for what their community service work might mean to the community that raised them.

“I hope it inspires horticulture throughout the area,” Hagood commented. “It’s open for anyone in the community to come see it.” Sandle agreed, noting that the cemetery was open to the public and would hopefully have more visitors after its facelift.

Scout leader Dan Fuller commended the boys’ efforts.
“As their Scoutmaster, I am thrilled to see these projects as the culmination of years of leadership development in the troop. It's been rewarding to see that personal growth in action. Both Justice and John David developed awesome projects that will have a lasting benefit to our community.”


Those interested in joining Clinton’s Boy Scout Troop #12 can reach out to Scout leader Dan Fuller by email at or by visiting the Troop’s website at