Face of the Week: Nikolai Vukov of Patapsco High School & Center for the Arts

Team BCPS is made up of thousands of accomplished and interesting students, employees, and community supporters. “Face of the Week” introduces you to some of the people who make BCPS such an amazing mosaic of talent, caring, and commitment.

Face of the Week: Nikolai Vukov of Patapsco High School & Center for the Arts

The path to becoming an Eagle Scout is not for the faint-hearted. It requires determination, leadership, and years of meeting a series of Boy Scout requirements that range from learning first aid and how to save a life to cooking outdoors, staying fit, and being a good citizen.

So it’s a good thing Nikolai Vukov has a stout heart. The 15-year-old freshman at Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts is in the final stage of meeting his Eagle Scout requirements this fall after he completed an unusual project linked to the start of school, one that demonstrated a heart that’s not only stout but big, too.

“I was in school and I noticed other kids who I thought needed help,” says Nik. “I thought, ‘There are families out there who don’t have as much as I do.’”

On the path to becoming an Eagle Scout, the final requirement is to undertake a service project for your community, one that often involves cleaning and improving the environment or building and installing a needed feature at a church, community building, or park. So, mindful of the need he had seen, Nik decided his Eagle project would be to mount a school supply drive of his own to benefit students at his old school, General John Stricker Middle.

He spent the summer planning and soliciting supplies from businesses, neighbors, and members of his Boy Scout Troop 355 and his Venture Scouting Crew 726, both located in Essex. He remembers being surprised and gratified by the support he received and the amount of donations he collected. “I was shocked how generous everyone was,” he says.

In addition to the school supplies and back packs, Nik included computer headphones for 50 students as well as a cash donation and extra supplies for the school to use.

Finally, on Aug. 4, he and his fellow Scouts assembled 50 backpacks stuffed with back-to-school supplies and presented them to administrators at Stricker to provide to students.

“There they were – ta da!” Nik says of the finished backpacks, grinning. “They were shocked and amazed (at Stricker) when they first saw the bags. . . . I was definitely proud of the moment. I was glad to help my community.”

Nik’s thoughtfulness was welcome at Stricker, too, says the school’s principal, Brian Wagner. “Nikolai is a young man whose life exemplifies the ideals of Scouting and the Stricker community.  He’s a spirited young man that finds joy in impacting countless peers, not just himself,” Wagner says. “We are thankful for his donation of backpacks filled with school supplies for over 50 Stricker students.  His partnership with the school and community demonstrate the pride and commitment all communities need in order to thrive.”

Growing into the moment   

 Scouting has been a big part of Nik’s life ever since he can remember. He recalls joining Cub Scouts when he attended Charlesmont as, at first, “just a way to pass the time.” But by the time he reached the age to transition to Boy Scouts, Nik says he “had the fire in me to keep going” in his steady achievement of ranks and merit badges, as well as memorable experiences.

Rock-climbing and riding zip lines. Camping trips and biking all 187 miles of the C&O Canal trail. Nik enjoyed them all, as well as the chance to develop his leadership skills – first as a Senior Patrol Leader in his troop and later in JROTC and on the football field – his other passion. When he wasn’t working with Scouts, Nik played for the Edgemere Falcons recreational league football team or, in his down time, read books about football. He still works with the 11- and 12-year-old players on today’s Falcons team as a blocking and tackling coach. And he’s playing as a lineman for Patapsco’s junior varsity squad, a “solid team,” he says.

He has grown as a leader, Nik says, by learning patience and how to manage crowds – either of Scouts or young football players. “Scouting teaches boys how to be better leaders,” Nik says. “And it’s a great opportunity to make friends.”

“Nikolai is great to have in class. He is a natural leader and good at making everyone feel included, which ultimately helps our classroom become a warmer, more engaging environment each day,” says Nik’s AVID teacher, Victoria Nolan. “He is always one of the first students with his hand up and is not fearful of being wrong. His thoughts are always insightful; both his questions and his comments push the class to gain a better understanding of the topic at hand. I appreciate (his) confidence. . . .” 

Nik also counts his accomplishments this summer as a one-up on his dad, Greg Vukov, a director with the BCPS Department of Information Technology. “He was a Scout, too,” Nik says, “but I think he only got to Second Class (rank).”  

Looking ahead

Boy Scouts have until age 18 to become an Eagle, the organization’s highest honor. Now that he’s on the cusp of attaining the top rank, Nik is already looking ahead, even – for a freshman – to far beyond high school.

While he knows his preferences might change, he’s considering applying to either The Community College of Baltimore County, Lincoln Tech, or the University of West Virginia. CCBC would be a great start to higher education, he says, and West Virginia is an option if, as he hopes, he can excel on the football gridiron, where he plays the guard or tackle positions. And if it’s West Virginia, then maybe, someday a shot at the NFL.

Lincoln Tech? “That’s for cooking,” he says, adding that he would enjoy learning at Lincoln’s culinary arts program to feed another interest in cooking he says he learned from his mother, Colleen. “She’s a great cook, and I’ve learned how much fun it is from her,” Nik says. “My favorite thing to cook is quesadillas. I’m working on learning other things.”

For now, just getting acclimated to high school has been a challenge. It has a different kind of grading system, he’s learned, and high school has “more freedom and more faces” than did middle school. Nik says likes the differences, though; “I like having more people in my classes, including seniors, juniors, and freshmen, too.” And, he says, more faces means more opportunities for friendship.

Nik will continue with Scouting, too. He already is a member of the Venture crew in Essex, a branch of Scouting that includes women and allows participants until the age of 20.

“I’ve gotten so much from Scouting; it’s really been great,” says Nik. “It’s in my blood now.”

Do you know of a special person who would be a good candidate for the BCPS “Face of the Week”? Let us know! Send their name, contact information, and what makes them special to  

For more photos, visit the album at the BCPS Flickr page.

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