Juneau youth earns Eagle Scout rank

Posted: Friday, November 01, 2002

Overcoming obstacles is something that Chad Guertin, 16, is getting used to.

A junior in the Juneau-Douglas High School CHOICE program, Guertin was inducted as an Eagle Scout early last month. He earned 21 merit badges and coordinated the installation of a cement patio at an assisted living house in Juneau to earn the promotion.

The magnitude of this accomplishment is amplified by the fact that Guertin was born with Asperger's syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism.

"Some things I do just might seem weird to everyone else," said Guertin, adding that he is less affected socially by his syndrome now than he was in middle or elementary school.

Asperger's syndrome didn't keep Guertin from earning his camping badge, which required him to camp for 20 nights, his orienteering badge, for which he had to hike a five-mile course taking his bearings along the way, or the citizenship and community badge.

He coordinated the volunteers and solicited donations for the installation of the concrete patio, which required 208 volunteer man-hours.

The project was challenging, but Guertin said it was a lot easier than he thought it would be.

"The hardest part was digging the hole," said Guertin, who has been a scout since he was 7 years old.

Guertin decided to enter the CHOICE program, a program at JDHS for youth at risk of not finishing high school, because of his Asperger's syndrome and because he's horrible with homework, he said.

"We have less homework with CHOICE," he said. "We learn the same as everyone else, we just have a lot more in-class work."

His favorite subjects in school are math - he's currently taking algebra II - and physical science.

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