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Craig Bertke, working toward Eagle Scout

As Craig Bertke thought about a project for his Eagle Scout badge, he thought about his time at South Hancock Elementary School, and decided he wanted to do a project for the school.

After much consultation, he decided to construct a covered shelter in the outdoor classroom behind the school. “My project was to improve the outdoor classroom,” Craig said. “So I built the gazebo, added a white board and also a storage bin for anything teachers might want to store out here. The gazebo will protect from the rain or harsh sunlight.”

Craig and his family started on the project the last week of December. It took them approximately two days to construct the shelter. Sister Emily said they needed to physically haul the construction materials over the small creek that borders the outdoor classroom. The family parked two trailers of building material in the back parking lot of the school, and started to work.
“It took a little bit to put it up, and it was a little cold,” Emily said. “But I am glad we finally got if put together.”

Craig, sister Emily and sister Codibelle each attended South Hancock Elementary School. Emily was in one of the first classes to use the outdoor classroom at South. Mother Leanne said she is extremely proud of Craig and his project.  “The school has been good to us,” Leanne said. “It feels good to give back.”

South Hancock Elementary School Teacher Becky Gaynor raved about the shelter. She said her class made use of the outdoor classroom to learn area and perimeter over the years.
“This is a wonderful addition,” Gaynor said. “When I saw it for the first time I thought, ‘Oh my gosh!’ It could not be placed any better and the size is perfect. The students are going to enjoy it for many years to come. It is just super sweet.”

Principal Jennifer Howe said many studies show the benefits of outdoor classrooms. Howe said such classrooms improve student engagement, which allows them to learn much easier.
“We are glad Craig chose his roots here at South to come back and build this outdoor classroom,” Howe said. “It is a phenomenal project.”

Craig started in the boy scouts at age five. He currently is a member of Troop 247 out of Whitesville, KY. He also attends Apollo High School. When he decided to construct a shelter in the outdoor classroom at South Hancock Elementary, he contacted Independence Bank in Hawesville about funding the project. The bank jumped at the chance to help fund the project.

“This is right in line with what we try to do in the community as far as giving back to the school he came from,” Wade Gaynor, Independence Bank Hancock County President said. “We just want to acknowledge his accomplishment. When you are 17-18 years old, it is a lifelong commitment to become an Eagle Scout. It is something we are proud of and very proud that Independence Bank can be a part of it.”
It has been over a decade since someone from Hancock County earned an Eagle Scout badge. With this honor, Craig can come back to the scouts as a troop master if he wants.
“Craig, truly, this is incredible,” Wade Gaynor said. “Congrats.”

By Ralph Dickerson

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