Palmyra youth earns top national Eagle Scout scholarship

Posted: June 16, 2014

Earning his Eagle Scout rank at the age of 14 wasn't enough for Donald E. Martocello 3d. No, he stuck with the troop as a leader, as a camper, and as a driven young man.

He's your model scout.

"He'll definitely be a leader somehow, somewhere in our communities," Steve Poaletti, Martocello's former scoutmaster, said, noting that Martocello had earned the rank far sooner than usual. "He's the kind of quality young man that communities want and need."

The National Eagle Scout Association also believes he has a lot of potential, and is putting its money on him. To help him pay for college, NESA awarded Martocello, 17, its $50,000 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics scholarship.

The scholarship, NESA's largest, is awarded to one Eagle Scout each year.

"There are times where I can't believe all these good things are happening," Martocello said. "Everything is such a long shot."

In his time with the scouts, Martocello has done more than just go on camping trips. He has held leadership roles in the troop, earned his Boy Scouts of America lifeguard certification, and was the kind of scout who would finish mile-long swims in cold lake water at camp every year he went even though he had to do it only once to be formally recognized.

Martocello will graduate Thursday from Palmyra High School and will be going to Princeton in the fall. He plans to study molecular biology - an educational path inspired by his time in the outdoors, observing nature with the Boy Scouts.

"I really love the outdoors. It's peaceful, relaxing," Martocello said. "I just like looking at nature and . . . it just takes all the stress away. You just feel at peace, but it also stimulates my mind."

Martocello's scholarship from NESA is in addition to in-house scholarships he has been awarded from Princeton that cover a good chunk of his tuition.

Eagle projects benefit the community, and are supposed to test the leadership skills of the aspiring Eagle Scout. His project was to build a historically accurate outhouse for the Walt Whitman House in Camden.

"He's spent a lot of time working with scouts and I think that scouts are one thing that has helped him with his goals," said his father, Donald Martocello Jr.

But the younger Martocello is also quick to recognize those who have helped him in life, whether it be his scoutmaster, his parents, his school principal, or his grandmother.

"I feel that everyone has just been supporting me. I don't think of myself as just me," Martocello said. "I know I wouldn't have gotten any of these achievements without them."

This summer, Martocello will have an internship at the Coriell Institute for Medical Research in Camden.

And, while he plays ultimate Frisbee and joins clubs at Princeton, he will be grateful for those who got him there.

"I wanted to say thank you to NESA because it's a really generous amount of money for one person to have," he said. "I am very thankful to them."



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