Conner Shields always wanted to help his local library.
Even as a grade-schooler, Shields remembers wanting to host a book drive to help restock the library’s shelves with fresh titles and new voices.
An avid reader, Conner spent many hours in the stacks, searching for the perfect book that would draw him deep within its pages and fire up a young boy’s imagination. But there was another reason for his love of books. His grandmother, Burndine Shields, had overseen Wellsville’s City Library for several years and played a significant role in the construction of its current location in the early 1990s.
And as time passed, the need to help his local library seemed to grow even stronger the older Shields got.
So when Conner decided to pursue the rank of Eagle Scout, he had a pretty good idea what his community service project looked like.
“I always knew I wanted to do something for the library,” he said.
But the project wasn’t exactly what he envisioned at first. He approached library officials with the book drive idea, but they had something else in mind. That’s when they suggested he install a flagpole — something the library had never had.
“It was just the perfect project,” said Conner’s dad, Michael.
Conner, who is 16 and a sophomore at Wellsville High School, started working on the project in January. But before any dirt was moved, he had plenty of preliminary work to do. Much of that involved outlining the project details, getting the necessary approvals and lining up supplies and help. With a little money and some generous retailers, Conner collected the materials he needed to complete the project.
One of the more significant donations he received, Conner said, was from Tom Davis, who operates Davis Excavating, Wellsville. Because the project involved digging a deep hole, which would’ve taken considerable time if done by hand, Davis used an auger. The hole was dug in about 10 minutes.
“It saved a bunch of time,” Conner said.
He completed the project on July 26. In all, it took about eight hours from start to finish, which included wrangling four younger Scouts and making sure they stayed on task.
“(First) I learned how important help is,” he said. “And about keeping people in line ... but, help was very important.”
Wellsville City Library director Becky Dodd said the new flagpole was a welcome addition. Before that, the library only had an American flag displayed inside the foyer.
“To me, (having a flagpole) represents what others have given so that the library can exist,” Dodd said. “We really are happy to have it, and the public is too.”
Once the project was completed, reviewed and validated, Conner formally earned the rank of Eagle Scout during a special Court of Honor on Aug. 30 at the United Methodist Church in Wellsville. The ceremony marked the completion of a nine-year journey, which started for Conner when he was just a Cub Scout in 2010. Currently, he’s a member of Wellsville Boy Scout Troop No. 63, serving as senior patrol leader.
While attaining the rank of Eagle Scout can be difficult, Conner said his older brother, Ted, and several of his friends, who were already Eagle Scouts, inspired him to go for it. A little sibling rivalry didn’t hurt, either.
“I wanted to reach Eagle Scout before my brother (had),” Conner said. “I only missed it by a month or two. He was 15 when he got it.”
With a number of merit badges, pins and awards under his belt, he said scouting has taught him skills that will last him a lifetime.
“I think it’s taught me leadership,” he said. “It’s also taught me how to get along with people who you don’t always agree with, and a bunch of skills you wouldn’t normally learn.”
Michael, who can’t help but smile as he looks at his son, says he’s seen Conner grow during his Scout journey. Michael was also a Boy Scout and has served as a leader for several years.
“I’ve seen him become more responsible,” he said. “This is the second time he’s been a senior patrol leader, and he has done a really good job of controlling the meeting. It’s also helped the way he presents himself, and it’s helped with his organizational skills.
“I’m very, very proud of him.”
Even though he’s reached Eagle status, Conner can still go on to earn more honors. But for now, he plans on remaining a member of Troop 63 until he’s 18. For him, there are still more campouts and high adventures to go on.
Once he graduates from high school in a few years, Conner plans to attend college and earn a degree in education so he can teach history or English.