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Jul 21, 2014 4:08 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Sag Harbor Eagle Scout Says Troop Dragged Out Project For Five Years Due To His Communication Disorder

Jul 22, 2014 4:21 PM

This past spring, at 23 years old, Leftheri Syrianos became an Eagle Scout after serving a little more than a decade in Sag Harbor Boy Scout Troop 455. And the journey to obtain the prestigious title was no easy feat, according to both him and his mother.Mr. Syrianos, known by many as Teddy, said his troop leaders dragged out the process of his Eagle Scout project, something that should have taken three years to complete instead of five. The reason, he believes, is that he has Asperger syndrome, an autism disorder that makes it hard for people with the syndrome to communicate with others.

“The troop really didn’t want to understand it,” Mr. Syrianos said. “I think they need to be more open-minded.”

After Mr. Syrianos obtained the title of Life Scout in 2009, having earned 21 badges, he began the paperwork for his Eagle Scout project—three large planters he would build for the Bridgehampton Senior Center on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike. His troop leaders approved the project, and Mr. Syrianos also received an extension on it because of his condition.

But what should have taken only three years to complete with the extension instead took five, and Mr. Syrianos believes it was because his troop leaders did not put enough effort into communicating with him—he said he would make calls and not hear back for weeks at a time. He also said the troop leaders gave him only one task per week to complete, when he could have taken on more.

“They put a lot of blocks in his path,” said Eleni Prieston, Mr. Syrianos’s mother. “The challenges in communication dragged out this very long process. The time it took to do this project doubled because of their lack ... of consistency.”

Christopher Cook, one of the leaders for Troop 455, said that was not the case. Mr. Cook said that because an Eagle Scout project is a test of a boy’s leadership abilities, it was Mr. Syrianos’s responsibility to stay on top of the paperwork, logistics and physical labor that went into completing the planters he proposed.

“We weren’t dragging it out at all,” Mr. Cook said. “The whole thing was in his hands. We spent a lot of time working with him.”

When Mr. Syrianos finally got around to actually building his planters, he said it took only three days to do, something that frustrated him because of how long the paperwork and other aspects of the project took prior to that. But he said he did have support from other troop members and their families who went to Pierson High School, where Mr. Syrianos did the work. He also had support and guidance from Doug Alnwick, a wood shop teacher at Pierson Middle School.

Once the project was completed and evaluated by a committee for Troop 455, however, Mr. Syrianos’s project was not approved, because it failed to get unanimous approval from the six-person team. Mr. Cook said the decision was made because not everyone on the committee felt Mr. Syrianos met the leadership expectations required of an Eagle Scout.

Mr. Syrianos and Ms. Prieston did not take no for an answer. They unsuccessfully appealed the decision to the troop’s district, Trailblazer, then went to the Boy Scouts of America Suffolk County Council in Medford. The second appeal was approved by the county council, and Mr. Syrianos received his Eagle Scout pin and letter of approval last month.

A spokesperson for Boy Scouts of America said in an email that while the organization could not comment on the situation itself, it does not discriminate because of disabilities. “Since its founding in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America has included fully participating members with physical, mental and emotional disabilities,” the spokesperson said. “We congratulate this young man on the accomplishment of earning his Eagle rank.”

Mr. Cook also said he was happy Mr. Syrianos eventually got approval. “He’s a great kid. It’s great that he got it,” he said. “We support him. We’re happy there was due process.”

Next up, Mr. Syrianos has to plan his Court of Honor, a celebration Eagle Scouts hold for family, friends, troop members and leaders after they receive their ranking.

In the end, though, both Mr. Syrianos and Ms. Prieston believe this situation showed that people still have yet to understand how to communicate with those who have communication disorders, and that no matter what their limitations are, they can accomplish anything they set their minds to.

“He needs to be recognized for his accomplishments, his perseverance,” Ms. Prieston said of her son. “People with issues are going to be part of the American fabric. We have to understand more and more that it takes them a lot more effort.”

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"A spokesperson for Boy Scouts of America said in an email that while the organization could not comment on the situation itself, it does not discriminate because of disabilities. ".... Nope, Just sexual orientation.
By bambi (76), bridgehampton on Jul 26, 14 9:47 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By mvcaruso52 (1), Brewster on Jul 27, 14 12:52 PM
There are opportunities for young women in BOY SCOUTING. There is are several programs many decades old that exist. Venturing, Explorer Posts and Sea Scouts are all opportunities for participation. Its easy to be lazy and not look for them and say they dont exist but youd be wrong. Perhaps you didnt see them at the National Jamboree this year too.
By Baymen87 (135), Lugoff, SC on Jul 31, 14 9:28 AM
2 members liked this comment
What a tremendous accomplishment! Congratulations to this young man for his perseverance and commitment to achieve this honor. He embodies what an Eagle Scout is all about.
By BillWillConn3 (180), Scarsdale on Jul 26, 14 10:31 PM
This is a huge accomplishment for this young man and he should be very proud!
By mvcaruso52 (1), Brewster on Jul 27, 14 1:01 PM
I was one of his fellow scouts and his scout leader for multiple years. He does not deserve Eagle. He never attended meetings, nor did he attend fundraisers, camp or any other scout functions. His mother pushed this through and used his disability as a scapegoat for a scout who had less presence than a ghost.
By Student7 (2), Sag Harbor on Oct 10, 14 9:18 PM