Catholic Life

Pupil wins scouts’ top award

Connor Nealon, pictured at Stonyhurst, with dogs Hamish and Milo

The BBC’s Blue Peter will televise the launch of a project devised and executed by a 16-year-old Stonyhurst pupil this week. It will be the culmination of three years’ work for Connor Nealon, and is a major step towards earning the rank of Eagle Scout – the highest rank within the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). This is only achieved by five per cent of scouts worldwide and is a lifelong badge of honour.

To fulfill the requirements of the Eagle project, Connor had to think of a project for a community charity. He had the bright idea of designing and building a unique sensory maze for dogs, consisting of different textures, scents and challenges, and chose the Dogs Trust, the largest dog welfare charity in Britain.

The Trust has donated £2,500 for hedges, five tons of bark and flowers for the 40 square yard maze, which is at the Harefield Rehoming Centre, near London. Connor has raised £50 himself, selling tuck at school, for shovels, spades, rakes and lots of gloves. To make his project a reality, Connor has also had to recruit, coordinate, feed, manage and maintain a group of about 35 volunteers, from Blue Peter, The Dogs Trust, family and friends.

Connor moved to England with his family from Washington DC eight years ago and has continued his Scout membership throughout that time, working his way up through five ranks, from Tenderfoot to Life, and now the top rank of Eagle. He said: “I had to build a shelter and spend two nights in the wild alone for the survival badge, with only a chocolate bar and a sandwich. But the toughest badge was probably swimming 10 miles.”

He says he has gained much from being a scout, such as self-discipline, determination and ingenuity. BSA operates in every country in the world except three; Connor’s group is in Cobham, Surrey. He added: “I’m really looking forward to the launch, and seeing the dogs use the maze for the first time. I’d really love a dog of my own but, sadly, my dad has an allergy to them.”

Connor hopes to be awarded his Eagle badge this Christmas.

The photograph shows Connor in front of Stonyhurst College, with Hamish and Milo, dogs borrowed from his teachers. Stonyhurst is a 400-year-old co-educational day and boarding school for three to 18 year olds.