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College to host its seventh Merit Badge University

MONMOUTH, Ill. – More than 400 Boy Scouts from Illinois and Iowa will gather March 10 at Monmouth College to hone their skills during a day-long Merit Badge University.

This is the seventh 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.

The conference also features educational programs for the adults in attendance, including required training for scoutmasters, as well as sessions in working with scouts with special needs, a nature hike with a botanist and making knots and woggles.

Since the College first hosted the program in 2012, attendance has increased by 180 scouts. Accompanying the scouts to campus this year will be nearly 100 scouting leaders.

“When we took over the program, we invited the entire Mississippi Valley Council,” said Monmouth staff member Kathy Mainz, who organizes the event in her role as chair of the local MBU committee. “We’ve continued with that, but we are now doing lots more marketing, including the Rockford, Peoria and Bloomington areas. We also have scouts from the Chicago area who 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 31 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 and Gary Distin (plumbing), Dennis Washburn of DJ’s Brake & Alignment (auto mechanics) and Martin Sullivan Equipment (ag mechanics).

Community members Elke Narkiewicz, Wiley Johnston and Matt Reynolds will lead the first aid session. Also assisting from the local community will be the Monmouth Police Department (crime prevention and fingerprinting), the Monmouth Fire Department (fire safety) and Steve Murmann (dentistry).

The latter two badges are new this year, as is the badge being taught by Monmouth faculty member Janis Wunderlich (pottery). Also representing Monmouth’s faculty and staff this year will be Tom Best and Jeff Rankin (citizenship in the community), Wendi Bolon (personal management) and Scott Page (photography).

Monmouth faculty member Tim Tibbetts, who is an Eagle Scout, will help get the Scouts around campus, along with faculty colleague Sean Schumm.

Counselors with Eagle Scout experience include Ryan Dawson ’21 of Monmouth (art & graphic arts) and Jared Bolon and Nico Guzman (space exploration).

Two other Monmouth students, Louis Badang ’18 of Monmouth and Emily Weedman ’18 of Knoxville, Ill., will assist with the chemistry merit badge. Brandon Allen ’18 of Marengo, Ill., will lead the nuclear science course.

Students from the Western Illinois Severe Weather Club will lead the weather course, while Joseph Gusse, an architect in the Quad Cities, will teach scouts about architecture.

Judge Heidi Benson will teach citizenship in the world, while three retired Burlington Northern-Sante Fe workers will also lend their talents. Charlie Tanner and Dick Stine will teach railroading, while Mauri Godsil will once again assist Mainz by serving as the traffic manager for the various bus trips that scouts take throughout the community.

Ken Helms, community engagement director for the city of Monmouth, and county board member Sean Cavanaugh will provide tours of local government offices.