By mid-2020, one Mattituck student will complete his high school career with seven-plus years of lacrosse experience, two fully conceptualized and assembled birdhouses and the highest rank the Boy Scouts of America can award: Eagle Scout.
Luke Wojtas, 18, has been the Mattituck lacrosse team goalie for the past seven years. In October, he set in stone another accomplishment, earning Eagle Scout honors, making him one of just 6% of Scouts who ever achieve the coveted rank.
The Mattituck resident became a Boy Scout in fifth grade, joining Troop 39 and staying consistent for years before his interest began to wane.
“When I was a younger Scout in my troop, I had a lot of fun,” he said. “When I turned 16, 17, I kind of lost a little interest and I didn’t really feel like going anymore because we weren’t doing all these fun things that we normally [did].”
Despite his temporary disinterest, he realized he would soon turn 18, at which point Scouts age out and can no longer pursue the highest achievement. He became reinvigorated when he learned that his older brother, U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Brinker, 36, had also been an Eagle Scout in high school. He was further struck when a Mattituck alumnus turned Marine Corps officer attended one of his troop’s Court of Honor ceremonies.
“That made me think, ‘Well, he’s an Eagle Scout and look where he is,’ ” Luke said. “I can become an Eagle Scout and I can get where I want to go.”
Through “non-stop work,” he explained, he was able to get back into gear, brainstorming project ideas from late fall to early winter of 2018.
“My dad and I were taking a walk through the woods one day with my dog because he was trying to help me think of a project,” Luke said. “He and I were walking and we see a couple of [purple] martin houses and he goes, ‘Oh, why don’t you do that? Build a martin house.’ ”
Purple martins, common in eastern North America, are the largest swallow on the continent. According to the National Audubon Society, their population “has declined seriously in parts of the west, and [is] currently declining in the east.” On the East End, however, these birds are not so hard to find. Many local homeowners and organizations have taken to purchasing or building houses, or “miniature condominiums,” for the martins, welcoming both their return in warmer months and their proclivity to forage for pesky insects.
Luke’s father advised him to consult with town representatives, who expressed support and even offering to assist him with finances. Board members had just one request: that Luke remove the deer stands located on two nearby properties in Greenport. He agreed, and managed to raise funds for his project without town assistance.
Between the end of winter and the start of spring 2019, he set out with an anticipated budget of $1,500 to $2,000, ultimately raising around $1,800 by way of a car wash he organized and donations from family, friends and the community. Most of his needed resources were purchased at discounted rates because he bought locally and businesses honored his Scout status. Riverhead Building Supply, for example, discounted his purchases of wood and screws.
Late last spring, he installed one of the completed martin houses near the former Skyway Drive-In in Greenport, close to Sills Pond. The second was installed down the road, near the Greenport Long Island Rail Road tracks.
“Now that I look back, there really isn’t too much that I would change,” Luke said. “We were able to make do with what we had.”
He expressed gratitude to those who donated and discounted his purchases and to his friends.
“I was happy to have them there,” he said. “I really appreciate them coming out and helping me because if they didn’t help me, this project wouldn’t have been able to get done and I wouldn’t be an Eagle Scout.”