Masontown youth enjoys many roles in musicals

| Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, 8:13 p.m.

Having performed in school musicals since the third grade when he appeared in “Damn Yankees,” and most recently as a freshman in “Once Upon a Mattress” and as a sophomore in “You're a Good Man Charlie Brown,” Albert Gallatin senior Drew Colebank excitedly recalls his roles as a jester and Linus, respectively.

“I love to dance and sing,” he said.

It's little wonder then that Colebank was bestowed with a Native American name, Dances With Wolves, after spending a night in 2012 alone in the wilderness at Camp Conestoga in Somerset County, maintaining a vigil to fulfill requirements for Scouting's Order of the Arrow honor.

In spending the night alone, “I was not allowed to speak, and I had to remain awake and meditate the entire night,” Colebank recalled. “I had to meditate on my past, present, and future. My sponsor said this night is between ‘me and God.' It was a time for reflection and where I was in my life at that time.”

After completing the vigil, the next day the Native American name was bestowed on Colebank, according to the Order of the Arrow, a national honor society for Scouting and the organization's highest honor.

According to the Boy Scouts' website, The Order of the Arrow, Scouting's National Honor Society, “promotes positive youth leadership.” Founded in 1915, the Order of the Arrow was “approved as part of the Scouting program in 1934. ... In 1948 the Order of the Arrow was recognized as the BSA's national brotherhood of honor campers and became an official part of the Boy Scouts of America. In 1998, the Order of the Arrow became recognized as Scouting's National Honor Society…”

Colebank continued his exemplary Scouting career this summer, completing his Eagle Scout award project when he organized and directed refurbishing of a retaining wall in Masontown that had “turned into an eyesore.” He said.

Built in the 1980s, the wall in front of Masontown Municipal Building holds back and supports the street, Colebank noted, and was made of railroad ties but the wood was decaying and causing the wall to become a safety hazard.

“We replaced or restored most of the top ties or where it was becoming a safety issue,” he added, referring to no fewer than 17 family members and friends who assisted in some capacity with the project that encompassed some 20 working days and about 375 total hours from mid-May through August. Additionally, 32 businesses and individuals donated money or materials for the project.

“Much time and effort went into this project,” said Colebank, whose father, Thomas Colebank, is Scoutmaster for Troop 654 in Masontown, as well as assistant superintendent of Uniontown School District.

“This project was both rewarding and fun,” Drew Colebank added, “What made it more fun and meaningful was that I did it because it was something I wanted to do, not because it was something I had to do. It would have been easier to choose another project for my Eagle Award that may not have been as extensive.”

When Colebank was ready to embark on his Eagle Scout project, he approached Masontown Chief of Police Joe Ryan, who happens to be Colebank's godfather, regarding a potential community project.

“He explained this would be a worthwhile project to enhance the town,” Colebank said, referring to Ryan. Colebank developed detailed plans, created a budget, and made his proposal to the town council for approval, which was quickly accepted.

Colebank and his crew attacked the L-shaped retaining wall, 100 feet long on each wing, and 8 feet high at its highest point, using rubber mulch for a base, planting rose bushes, cutting tarps, removing large rocks, and painting the wall.

“But once we figured out we could spray the wall and not have to use brushes everything went a lot faster,” Colebank added, laughing.

Dan Wright, adviser for Westmoreland/Fayette Counties Council Wagion Lodge, one portion of the Order of the Arrow, described Colebank as “an exceptionally intelligent young man. He is very passionate and very responsible. When Drew has a task he puts his whole heart into it. He does something not because he has to do it but because he wants to do it. He is the type of individual if he says he will do something, he will get it done. He is definitely deserving of his Eagle Scout award. He is an excellent young man and I'm proud that he has earned the award.”

Kyle Bryan, staff adviser for Wagion Lodge, added that Colebank “is an energetic Scout who puts his heart and complete dedication into every project. He is one of the most reliable Scouts I've worked with. We are privileged to have him among us.”

At Albert Gallatin, Colebank earned a 4.9 grade average as a junior and maintains a 4.4 cumulative average throughout his high school career, but he somehow finds time to be president of his prayer group, the Youth Group of Masontown and Interact Club. He is his class representative on both the Student Council and STAT (Students Taking Action Together) Council, as well as secretary of Intermediate Unit 1 Student Forum/Student Council. He is captain of the Academic League, a four-year member of the Drama Club, tenor in the school choir, and is a member of Masontown Matters, a community projects program.

With his academic class load as a junior including five Advanced Placement classes, he took a hiatus from the stage but plans on becoming involved in the school's production of “Beauty and the Beast” this year.

“I like to keep busy,” he said, perhaps understating the obvious. “I don't know what I would do if I were not involved in so many activities.”

Focusing on a medical sciences career after high school, Colebank has been accepted in the University of Pittsburgh's pre-med program. He plans to major in neuroscience and religious studies to become an oncologist and non-paid pastor.

Les Harvath is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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