Eagle Scout project helps bridge literacy gap

A Maxwell youth will soon achieve the highest rank in scouting while giving something to six Colusa County communities that could have a lasting impact.

Nick Azevedo, 17, has built “Little Free Libraries,” to be installed outside the Colusa, Maxwell, Stonyford, Williams, Princeton, and Arbuckle branches of the Colusa County Library.

The project will culminate with Azevedo attaining the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest achievement in the Boy Scouts of America program.

Azevedo said he hopes his Eagle Scout project will help reduce Colusa County’s illiteracy rate, which at 33.8 percent is far higher than the state’s average of 23.1 percent.
“I wanted to do a project that did something good in the community,” Azevedo said.

Azevedo is the son of Mark and Diana Azevedo, and a senior next year at Maxwell High School. He is a member of Troop 5, of Colusa, led by Amy Gerrard, who has been successful in turning out high-ranking scouts from Colusa County, even though only four percent of Boy Scouts nationwide reach the highest level.

The Eagle Scout process took years for Azevedo to accomplish and required him to demonstrate leadership, complete numerous tasks and badges, and undergo a lengthy review process.

Azevedo joined Cub Scouts at age 7, and has earned the 21 required merit badges in activities such as camping, communication, environmental science, personal fitness, and emergency preparedness.

He said he wants children and adults to take advantage of the free access to books, especially when the libraries are closed, and hopes his project demonstrates that his 10 years of hard work in Boy Scouts has paid off.

Colusa County Library Director Stacey Zwald Costello said she was really very excited when Nick approached the county regarding the Little Free Libraries as a potential Eagle Project, because she had applied unsuccessfully for a grant that would have allowed them to place such receptacles throughout the county.

“The branches in these communities have limited service hours, and while all of the communities in Colusa County warrant additional hours, we are unable at this time to provide them,” Costello said. “The Little Free Libraries give us the opportunity to provide access to reading materials even when we cannot be there.”

Costello said the branch librarians would monitor the Little Free Libraries and make sure that they are stocked with reading material for all ages.

“The Colusa County Free Library’s Literacy Program will be donating materials for children and some of the easy readers for adult literacy students,” she said.

On July 7, Azevedo and his crew – which included his mentor Rich Alves, of Bayliss, his father, Mark, fellow Troop 5 Eagle Scout Sam Stocks and Scout Sawyer Stocks – built the six book receptacles from either recycled barn wood or redwood.

Costello said that not only did Azevedo make use of recycled wood, but also that he is providing Little Free Libraries to the communities outside his hometown.

“It felt like a really inclusive and thoughtful project, and one that would help us to better meet the needs of our patrons,” she said.

Azevedo’s Eagle Scout project will be completed and all the receptacles installed before he turns 18 on July 30, at which time he will join the ranks of famous Eagle Scouts like the late President Gerard Ford, former U.S. Education Secretary William Bennett, Film Director Steven Spielberg, and the late Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.