Barry McNamara  |   Published March 06, 2017

Merit Badge University

Annual conference helps Boy Scouts work toward Eagle Scout
  • Professor Craig Vivian and a group of scouts are engrossed in a match as part of the Chess merit badge.
More than 400 Boy Scouts from Illinois and Iowa will gather at Monmouth College on March 11 to hone their skills during a day-long Merit Badge University.

This is the sixth 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. Most of the activities will be held in the College’s Center for Science and Business.

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 map and compass review and making knots and woggles.

Since the College’s inaugural MBU in 2012, attendance has increased by 180 scouts. Accompanying them 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 helps to organize the event in her role as chair of the local MBU committee. “We’ve continued with that, but 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.

“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, who reported the Monmouth conference offers 33 of the 138 possible merit badges. “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), Kunes Country Auto (auto mechanics) and Martin Sullivan Equipment (ag mechanics).

Also assisting from the local community will be the Monmouth Police Department (crime prevention and fingerprinting), the Monmouth Fire Department (first aid) and Matt Thompson of Thompson Trucking (truck transportation).

Among the Merit Badge counselors are six Monmouth College faculty and staff members – Tom Best and Jeff Rankin (citizenship in the community), Wendi Bolon (personal management), Leo Szaltis (woodworking), Tim Tibbetts (citizenship in the world) and Craig Vivian (chess).

Tibbetts is an Eagle Scout, as are two of the Monmouth students instructing – Nico Guzman ’18 of Cameron, Ill., (space exploration) and Jacob Marx ’17 of DeKalb, Ill. (aviation). Marx will be accompanied by his father, a maintenance specialist for American Airlines. Two other Monmouth students, Louis Badang ’17 of Monmouth and Ashley Winters ’18 of Galesburg, Ill., will be assisting with the chemistry merit badge.

A co-sponsor of Merit Badge University, the College’s office of admission will conduct campus tours during the day.
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