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College to host Merit Badge University for Boy Scouts

Barry Mcnamara
MONMOUTH, Ill. – More than 375 Boy Scouts from Illinois, Iowa and other states will gather March 14 at Monmouth College to hone their skills during a daylong Merit Badge University.

This is the ninth year that Monmouth College has hosted the Boy Scouts of America’s annual conference for scouts working toward their Eagle Scout rank by earning merit badges. Many of the activities will be held in the College’s Center for Science and Business, and others will be held throughout the local community.

“In order for a scout to earn a badge, they explore their interest with an adult who is an expert in that area,” said Monmouth staff member Kathy Mainz, who organizes the event in her role as chair of the local merit badge committee. “Our merit badge counselors will work with small groups of scouts and guide them through a booklet of information on their particular topic.”

The conference also features adult educational programs, including required training for scoutmasters and information about the Scouts BSA program. Accompanying the scouts to campus this year will be more than 80 adult scouts and 45 volunteers.

Some scouts receive two badges at the conference, taking a half-day course in the morning and another in the afternoon. The Monmouth conference offers 34 of the 138 possible merit badges, including several that are difficult to find.

“We are one of the few places in the country to offer badges for railroading, plumbing, aviation and welding,” said Mainz. “This is a wonderful opportunity for our scouts to think outside the box, to think outside the world of academia and explore different things.”

The traditionally difficult badges to complete are available thanks to the cooperation of Kenny St. George (plumbing), retired BNSF employees Charlie Tanner and Maurie Godsil (railroading), Trevor Davies and JetAir in Galesburg (aviation) and Sam Gooding, Mike Torsney, Aaron Heartt and Shane Hudson (welding). Twenty students are enrolled in the latter course, with some working at Gooding’s shop in Roseville and others receiving their instruction at United High School. The railroading students will get a tour of the Galesburg Railroad Museum.

Students from the Western Illinois Severe Weather Club will lead the weather course. Also assisting from the local community will be Prairie Communication/WRAM Radio’s Vanessa Wetterling (broadcast journalism), Bill Leahy of Alexis (electricity and electronics), Matt Thompson of Thompson Brothers Trucking (truck transportation and traffic safety) and J.R. Girskis, president of Suburban Construction in Davenport, Iowa (American business).

Others include the Monmouth Police Department (crime prevention and fingerprinting), the McDonough Public Health Dept. (public health), the Warren County Genealogy Society (genealogy) and Kunes Country Auto (auto mechanics).

“We could not do these specialty badges without our business partners,” said Mainz. “I’ve had some of them comment to me that if we don’t show these specialized professions to young people, they’ll never know about them.”

College Editor and Historian Jeff Rankin and retired teacher Tom Best will teach the citizenship in the community session, which will include a tour of Monmouth’s City Hall and the Warren County Courthouse.

Monmouth physics professor Chris Fasano, who got his first exposure to nuclear science as a scout, will help Matt Franciscovich ’21, a physics major from Kewanee, Ill., lead Monmouth’s nuclear science merit badge session. Fasano will also speak during the lunch program, helping the scouts – who range in age from 11 to 18 – and adults on campus learn more about the advantages of attending Monmouth College.

A counselor with Eagle Scout experience, Ryan Dawson ’21 of Monmouth, will lead the art and graphic arts session. Dawson was a member of the local Troop 355. Monmouth faculty members Tim Tibbetts and Mike Nelson will also help Mainz keep the event going throughout the day.