It’s not every day that a Boy Scout becomes an Eagle Scout, and Christopher Dubon of North Bellmore is one of the relative few to earn that rank. For his Eagle Scout service project, Dubon built Martin Avenue Elementary School an outdoor library and reading patio, to be enjoyed by students of all ages.
On May 12, the project was unveiled at a special ceremony at the school, which is part of the North Bellmore Union Free School District. Dubon graduated from Martin Avenue in 2016, and is now a senior at Wellington C. Mepham High School in the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District.
The process of completing the reading space wasn’t without setbacks, caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which was in its early stages when Dubon received approval for his project.
“When I was researching for my Eagle project, I knew I wanted the location to be a place close to my heart,” he explained. “While I wasn’t certain what I wanted to create — some ideas included building a new basketball court or playground — there was no doubt of where I wanted to create it: Martin Avenue.”
He began discussing a library with Leyna Malone, the school’s principal at the time.
“I wanted my project to convey the message that reading can bring people together,” Dubon said. “This led to the idea of creating a space that invited both reading and meeting.”
After months of planning, he received approval for his project from the North Bellmore Board of Education on March 12, 2020.
“Let me just say that again,” he joked. “The project was approved on March 12, 2020, the week before the whole world shut down.”
The planning and fundraising for the library came to an abrupt halt, he recounted, but two years later, thanks to the determination and support of his family, friends, Bellmore Troop 192 leaders and the school district, the project was finally completed and ready to be used — just in time for this spring’s warmer weather.
The library, which is just outside Martin Avenue’s front entrance, has a paved pathway, benches, and a small box where books are housed.
Martin Avenue’s current principal, James O’Brien, said the library was a representation of North Bellmore’s values of promoting literacy. “When Chris worked with former Principal Malone, they discussed the project to help the community and promote the love of reading,” O’Brien said. “This brand new library accomplishes this — community members can borrow a book, sit on one of the benches, and enjoy escaping into an amazing story.”
Lining the pathway to the library are flowers planted by Daisy Troop 943, who offered to help Dubon beautify the space. “I remember pulling up as we worked on the project, excited to see everyone collaborate toward a common goal,” O’Brien added.
“Chris reflected on all the community gave to him, and wanted to give back. He saw a need, and helped create this library to serve his community.”
North Bellmore Union Free School District Superintendent Dr. Marie Testa was principal of Martin Avenue when Dubon was in sixth grade.
“Sometimes you meet youngsters along the way,” she recalled, “and you kind of make a little bit of a mental marking and say, ‘This person, they’re great who they are now — I can just imagine what he’s going to do.’”
At the ceremony, Testa said that from a young age, Dubon was always committed to helping others. He approached her when he was a student, and said that Martin Avenue didn’t have enough swings on the playground.
“I went outside and we looked at it,” she recounted. “And I said, ‘He’s correct about this.’ I approached the Board of Education, spoke to them — and because of Chris, the children had more swings. And he did this in elementary school. Chris was thinking of his community even then.
“I want to thank Chris for reminding me of our purpose — of what we’re here to do,” Testa added. “It has to do with inspiring future generations to read, and love reading, for purposes beyond the classroom.”
The outdoor library was already in use last week, when classes came outside during the school day to make use of it.
“Seeing this project through was a challenge, but it was worth it,” Dubon said.
“We stand here, a kind and caring community, about to cut the ribbon and give this space to the community that helped build it. We have a place to come together, to share stories, whether they’re about what we’re reading or the ones we’re telling about ourselves.”