Hard work and a kind character will help send Stephen Weppner to college. The American Legion Post 527 in Hamburg awarded the 18-year-old Hamburg resident with a $1,000 scholarship.
The American Legion honors outstanding Eagle Scouts with a national Eagle Scout of the Year Award and scholarship. Weppner, a member of Troop 506, was named Eagle Scout of Erie County and the Eighth District (comprising 10 counties in Western New York). He joined the Cub Scouts nine years ago with his brother, and they both continued in the organization, working their way up the ranks.
"We honestly enjoyed it, started making friends and stuff like that. We were always interested in the outdoors stuff. When I aged out of Cub Scouts I joined the Boy Scouts. There's no difference. I keep making friends, I keep learning something new, and I keep enjoying the experience," Weppner said.
He earned his Eagle Scout rank by restoring a baggage car for the Buffalo Central Terminal. This involved raising $975 and overseeing his family and troop in working 197 hours on the restoration project.
"This railroad baggage car is a piece of this area's history and will be on display at the Central Terminal for all to enjoy," said Bill Miskell, chairman of scouting for American Legion Post 527.
Along with the scholarship, Weppner also received an eagle statue on behalf of Erie County. He has held many roles within the troop including historian and troop guide. He currently serves as senior assistant patrol leader. Through his years with the scouts, the young man earned several awards including Historic Trails Award and the Ad Altare Dei Religious Medal.
This past February Weppner also received the Manus Christi Award at the diocesan youth convention. The Manus Christi (Hands of Christ) is given by the Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministry to high school seniors who possess outstanding moral character, are active in parish ministry, witness the faith and achieve academic success.
He has worked at the chicken barbecues and fish frys at his home parish, St. Francis of Assisi in Athol Springs. He works with his mother on faith formation for the parish and the St. Joseph's Table. He also prepared a Thanksgiving Dinner for the elderly.
"It's kind of shaped me as a person. It's given me some character," Weppner said of his work with the Church. He has served as a chaplain's aide in his scout troop. "I always thought it was good to spread God's word and spread His message of reverence and being a good role model for others."
All the attention doesn't seem to be going to his towheaded noggin.
"I feel that it's good that people see that young people are interested in the Catholic faith and are interested in scouting. They're two very good organizations. I hope to be a role model, but I'm also kind of a humble person. I'm not really the guy who wants to be in the headlines or have his name in shining lights," he said.
"He's a very nice young man, polite, deserving of everything he got," Miskell said.