When Ivan was 7 years old, he wanted to become a Cub Scout. There was only one problem. Guttenberg didn't have a Cub Scout pack or a Boy Scout troop. But young Ivan was determined.
"I knew a lot of my friends were going into scouting, and I knew that I really enjoyed the outdoors and I liked camping, so I wanted to do it, too," Avendano said.
So Avendano convinced his parents to let him join the Cub Scout and Boy Scout groups at Our Lady of Fatima Roman Catholic Church in North Bergen. It was a pairing that fit like a glove. Avendano felt right at home with the other kids from Troop 160. He made scouting a part of his daily life for the next decade.
A year ago, when Avendano was a senior at High Tech High School in North Bergen, he knew that his scouting days were drawing to a close. Once a Boy Scout turns the age of 18, he can no longer be considered a Scout. In scouting, just like real life, one loses the distinction of being a "Boy" and becomes a man.
Avendano wanted to insure that he would leave Boy Scouts with the highest honor a Scout can achieve - the rank of Eagle Scout.
So he had to design a community-related project that would enable him to receive his Eagle Scout status.
"I saw an article in the paper about a blood shortage, and after I read it, I knew that's what I wanted to do," Avendano said. "So I brought the article to my Scout leaders and asked if we could have a blood drive."
Avendano's Scout leaders from Troop 160 thought it was a brilliant idea. So Avendano contacted the Hudson-Bergen American Red Cross for assistance with his blood drive.
"I figured it was a good way to get the community involved," Avendano said. "We set up a thing to have after Sunday services, if people were willing to donate. I went around and handed out fliers to the neighborhood."
The perils of blood drives However, it was there that Avendano ran into a little bit of trouble.
"I was very surprised how many people ignored me, even when I was wearing my Scout uniform," Avendano said. "I was with my troop and walking through the North Bergen streets and people were still ignoring us. I just wanted to help people. I'm even bilingual, but I guess the people still had fear of giving blood."
Still, Avendano's efforts didn't go by the wayside. He was able to get 112 people to register for the blood drive. Again, there were other obstacles. People who were about to leave the country were not permitted to donate blood, so the number was sliced a bit.
"There were a few restraints I wasn't aware of," Avendano said.
The final total of pints donated in the Avendano Boy Scout blood drive was 56.
"Including my own," he proudly proclaimed.
Because his social project was a success, Avendano was able to receive his Eagle Scout badge recently, becoming the first Guttenberg native to ever reach the plateau.
Mayor David Delle Donna and the Town Council honored Avendano at a recent council meeting with a plaque honoring him for his achievement and his successful blood drive.
Hesleitner wins also Avendano wasn't the only member of North Bergen Troop 160 to receive his Eagle Scout status. North Bergen resident Michael Hesleitner also received his award after organizing a supply drive to help a local shelter for battered and abused women, collecting goods such as clothing, towels and other household items.
Active Scout Just because Avendano reached the maximum age limit for Boy Scouts, he doesn't want it to be the end of his involvement in scouting. He is already a assistant scoutmaster and an active Scout leader with Troop 160 and would like to organize a Boy Scout troop in his native Guttenberg one day.
"I'm hoping to start a troop in Guttenberg in order that so many other kids could get a chance to enjoy scouting," Avendano said. "It's a program that would benefit them later on."
Later this month, Avendano will return for his sophomore year at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., where he is majoring in engineering and physics and minoring in flight, taking pilot's lessons.
However, that's not the ultimate goal.
"I want to become an astronaut," Avendano said. "It's been my dream since I was young. I was really into the Discovery (space shuttle) landing this week. Hopefully, my schooling will open some doors and lead to a bright future in space."
Spoken like the ambitious young man he is.
"I never realized how much I could get out of being a Boy Scout," Avendano said. "Getting this Eagle Scout award was for me, but as I look back, I had a lot of help, from my mentors in the past, my friends, my mom and dad, the schools I attended. I guess they can all see that I accomplished something, but now, I have to accomplish more."