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Greensburg sophomore becomes Eagle Scout, tackles New Mexico wilderness

| Thursday, March 21, 2013, 7:09 p.m.
Top of the world Connor Simpson will once again tackle the mountaintops of New Mexico during a wilderness trek at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron.
Connor Simpson, 15, a sophomore at Greensburg Salem High School, renovated this courtyard at First United Methodist Church at the corner of East Second Street and South Maple Avenue in Greensburg for his Eagle Scout project. He will receive the Boy Scouts highest honor next month.

Listening to Connor Simpson talk makes it easy to forget he's 15 years old.

The sophomore at Greensburg Salem Senior High School has been involved in Boy Scouts for most of his life — which he attributes to teaching him how to think ahead, talk to adults, be comfortable in groups and prepare for a job interview, not to mention cooking, camping and trekking through the wilderness.

Simpson used those lessons as he prepared for his Eagle Scout service project by embarking on a beautification project at First United Methodist Church in Greensburg, where his Troop 419 meets.

Simpson led 20 volunteers from his troop as they tackled scraggly bushes, a leaky tool shed roof and a peeling concrete wall, dug two ditches for drainage and electricity and more as they beautified the courtyard of the church at 15 E. Second St. at its intersection with South Maple Avenue.

“I was flying by the seat of my pants,” Simpson said. “I'd never done anything like that before.”

To prepare for the project, Simpson had to go in front of the church board and prepare a budget, as well as get donations for mulch and gravel.

The project was completed over two weekends in September and October and took a total of 16 hours to complete.

“Connor is more about challenging himself than he is about fun stuff,” said his mother, Anita Simpson.

As leader of the project, Connor Simpson realized there were kinks to be worked out. One was weather. The other was managing his friends.

“I learned it's tough to be a leader and a friend at the same time,” he said. “My friends would say, ‘Hey, did you see the Penguins game?' and I had to be like, ‘Yes, but I need you to do this now.' It was a little bit awkward actually.”

Simpson will receive his Eagle Scout badge at a Court of Honor ceremony next month.

Troop leader Joe Parker said he is proud of the work Simpson completed.

“He's a very organized and driven kid and it shows in the result of this project,” said Parker, who's been leader of the troop for more than a year. “He had jobs for everyone and directed their work like he's supposed to.”

First United Methodist Church trustee Harry Fox, who worked closely with Simpson, couldn't agree more.

Fox said Simpson had the details of the project all planned out. Upon its completion, Fox said, he has heard many compliments for a job well done.

There was a time when Simpson didn't want his friends at school to know he was a Scout.

“There's a perception — not negative — but people think it's nerdy and a big joke and when you take it so seriously …. I feel much more comfortable about it today than I did,” Simpson said.

That may be because there are so many different facets to Simpson.

He's a member of the high school hockey team, the tennis team, the mock trial team competing in the statewide competition this weekend in Harrisburg and the National Forensics League team. He has been an altar server at his church, Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Greensburg, for the last seven years.

But what really excites him is a hiking and backpacking trip he took at the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, N.M., last year with his father and friends from the troop.

So much so, that he is going back in July on a Rayado Trek expedition at Philmont for 21 days by himself.

Participants in the challenging, selective program “take the most challenging trails, climb rock faces and stand on mountaintops,” all while carrying a 50-pound backpack, according to its website.

Last year, “I didn't realize how dusty and filthy it was,” Simpson said. “We hiked 10 miles a day with flies, poop and extreme heat. And it was so much fun; I can't wait to go back.”

Simpson said he will enjoy meeting Scouts he does not know from around the country. He's expecting to rock climb, hike, climb poles, and work on solving problems as a group.

“These are thing I just find a blast,” Simpson said. “The scenery should be quite gorgeous too.”

Michele Stewardson is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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