For years, the young minds of Mesa Verde Elementary School have walked over and around the same, faded mural in the center of campus: a smiling mountain lion under which the words “BE YOUR BEST” were painted.
Any student expecting that same worn-out lion to greet them Aug. 8 is in for quite a surprise after the hard work of 14-year-old Caleb Peterson, who convinced his friends and family to join him in braving the summer heat to provide the mural with a much needed makeover.
What started with power washing ended with fresh paint as Caleb directed the action—paintbrush in hand—to ensure everyone stuck to his plan. The result of the young man’s drive includes the return of the school’s mascot, painted over a rich field of blue with the top portion of the Arizona state flag filling out the design.
While it may seem odd the project foreman is a 14-year-old who would otherwise spend the summer preparing for the rigors of high school, it was all part of the plan for the Peterson clan and their friends. After years in the Scouts BSA program, Caleb is on his well on his way to achieving the program’s highest rank, Eagle Scout.
After earning the four previous ranks and the 13 merit badges required to progress to Eagle, a young scout must provide a service to their community by helping a school, religious institution or other group. Not only must they complete a beneficial project, they have to lead a team in doing so.
Having attended Mesa Verde from kindergarten through fifth grade, Caleb said he knew where he could provide some help.
“It just seemed like a good idea,” he said. “The old mural here was faded, and it just didn’t look very good.”
With a mission in mind, Caleb set about (with the help of his parents) acquiring paint, developing a layout for his new mural and recruiting a contingent of his friends to help out.
As luck would have it, the other young painters were Mesa Verde grads—including at least one other scout aiming to be an Eagle Scout.
After receiving approval from a scouting board, Caleb and his crew were ready to paint.
While the young man was at the helm of the service project, his mother, grandfather and father, Kevin Peterson, were also on-hand to provide any needed guidance along the way.
A proud father, Kevin said scouting is something of an unofficial Peterson family tradition. He worked his way to Eagle Scout, as did Caleb’s older brother. Their grandfather, though he never progressed as far, was also a scout.
“I did not push him to go to scouts,” Kevin said.
“His progression and his getting the merit badges, he’s really done a lot of it himself. I think I was babysat more as a scout and told ‘Do this, do that.’ But with him, he’s done so much of it on his own.”
Caleb’s eyes were set on the Mesa Verde community for his service project, though Kevin shared that the mural was actually a fallback plan of sorts after the young man’s initial project didn’t come to fruition.
The original project involved over a dozen pallets of children’s toys and other presents that Caleb and his team would wrap and ship out to families in need. When the shipment of toys was held up and the contacts were lost in the wind, Kevin said his son wasn’t ready to call it quits, and immediately set about to finding a different way to help out.
With a little bit of support from his parents, Caleb was ready to find a cause.
To help the aspiring Eagle Scout complete his new mural, the Petersons reached out to a family friend, Mariann Winfield, wife of Oro Valley Mayor Joe Winfield.
A hobbyist artist and mother to six Eagle Scouts of her own, Winfield said she was delighted to help complete the new mural.
“I like to see young people set goals for themselves and have opportunities to exercise leadership,” she said. “Doing these projects is a lot of fun.”
Winfield said she enjoys painting on large spaces surfaces like walls, and was more than happy to take on the challenge.
Though she won’t be there for the first day of school, Winfield said she’s excited just thinking about the surprise in store for the young students.
“It looks so happy,” she said. “It looks cheerful.”