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College to host its eighth Merit Badge University

Barry McNamara
This file photo shows Boy Scouts from western Illinois and eastern Iowa in a Merit Badge University session. Monmouth College will once again host scouts from the region on March 9.
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MONMOUTH, Ill. – More than 400 Boy Scouts from Illinois and Iowa will gather March 9 at Monmouth College to hone their skills during a day-long Merit Badge University.

This is the eighth year that Monmouth College has hosted the Boy Scouts of America’s annual conference for boys 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.

“This is one of the premier merit badge sessions in the Midwest,” said Mike Torsney, the parent of a scout, in a communication with Monmouth staff member Kathy Mainz, who organizes the event in her role as chair of the local MBU committee. “We send a group every year. Your scouts will want to go back next year. Kathy and her team are excellent.”

The conference also features educational programs for the adults in attendance, including required training for scoutmasters and information on the new Scout Me In family scouting program.

Since the College first hosted the program in 2012, attendance has increased by nearly 200 scouts. Accompanying the scouts to campus this year will be 170 adult scouts and nearly 70 volunteers.

“When we took over the program, we invited the entire Illowa Council,” said Mainz. “We’ve continued with that, but we are now doing lots more marketing, including the Quincy, Peoria and Cedar Rapids areas. Scouts are drawn to our program because of some of the unusual badges we offer, such as ag mechanics, auto mechanics and plumbing.”

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 35 of the 138 possible merit badges.

“In order for a scout to earn a badge, they explore their interest with an adult who is an expert in that area,” said Mainz. “Our merit badge counselors will work with small groups of scouts and guide them through a booklet of information on their particular topic.”

The traditionally difficult badges to complete are available thanks to the cooperation of Kenny St. George (plumbing), Dennis Washburn of DJ’s Brake & Alignment and Galesburg Toyota (auto mechanics) and Martin Sullivan Equipment (ag mechanics).

Students from the Western Illinois Severe Weather Club will lead the weather course. Also assisting from the local community will be the Monmouth Police Department (crime prevention and fingerprinting), the Monmouth Fire Department (fire safety) and Dr. Steve Murmann (dentistry). Others include the Galesburg Railroad Museum (railroading), the McDonough Public Health Dept. (public health), the Warren Co. Genealogy Society (genealogy), JAG Architectural Group of Rock Island (architecture), Prairie Communication/WRAM Radio (broadcast journalism) and Roseville Veterinary Service (veterinary medicine).

“We could not do these specialty badges without our business partners,” said Mainz.

Counselors with Eagle Scout experience include Ryan Dawson ’21 of Monmouth (art & graphic arts), Nico Guzman, who will lead the space exploration class along with Zane Tibbetts-Zesbaugh, and Chris Adams from the McDonough Public Health Dept.

“As a young man, on his trail to being an Eagle Scout, Chris took the public health merit badge,” said Mainz. “He pursued it in college and now he does it as his profession.”

Mainz said Monmouth physics professor Chris Fasano had a similar experience, getting his first exposure to nuclear science as a scout. He’ll lead Monmouth’s nuclear science merit badge session along with recent graduate Brandon Allen ’18

Kinesiology lecturer Kari Shimmin will lead the geocaching class, while 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.