Scouts gain more than merit badges at Washburn University

Bil Thompson, the merit badge counselor for Game Design, teaches Scouts in the Henderson Learning Center on the campus of Washburn University.

By Special Guest Contributors: Liberty Brandt, Troop 12; Ty Hedrick, Troop 126; Eli Hladky, Troop 12; Wyatt Jones, Troop 7, Austin Morrow, Troop 4; Nolan Perry, Troop 81; Madeline Seel, Troop 41; Audrey Smith, Troop 12; Hunter Spurlock, Troop 4; and Landon Weisgerber, Troop 18

Editor’s Note: The reporters for this story completed the Journalism Merit Badge, taught by Regina Cassell, director of Student Media, along with Christina Noland, Glorianna Noland, Kyle Etzel and Leah Jamison, members of the Student Media staff.

Almost 200 Scouts BSA attended the annual Washburn Merit Badge Conference Saturday, Feb. 19, to earn merit badges from their choice of 23 badges offered throughout the day. Washburn University offers resources for Scouts to earn their badges and make connections.

Scouts earn their badges by completing work listed in the Scouting’s official badge requirements. Badges are accomplishments of acquired skills and information that show a Scout’s experience. There are currently 135 merit badges a Scout can earn.

“These conferences are special because they’re local,” said Jessica Southall, committee chair of Topeka’s Troop 11. “It’s an opportunity for the community to come together.”

Kids who participate in Cub Scouts often transition into Scouts during the month of February in what’s called a crossing over ceremony. Washburn’s event is often a big first those who crossed over.

“I like getting to go to these fun events that everybody works hard to make happen,” said Kai Cobbler, Troop 18. “My troop is great. Everybody knows each other. We’re all friends. I would say that it’s fun because we get to go out on camping events into places we’ve never been to and we get to explore, go on hikes, it’s really fun.”

Henry Hedrick, is a second class Scout from Burnett’s Troop 126, said the small troop is like his second family.

“The people in my troop are great,” said Hedrick. “I really like going outdoors. I’m not really a kid that goes outdoors and plays sports. I like going out into the wilderness and cutting wood and doing that kind of stuff. Scouting has kind of been drawing me into it.”

Isabel Basurto, a Scout leader for Troop 149, mentored a Scout event on public speaking and mentioned how much training like this applies to real life.

“Especially through Boy Scouts itself, like, you gain a lot of qualities, but at the same time you gain a lot of connections,” said Basurto.

Basurto says her boyfriend was an Eagle Scout and he has shared that he was able to reach out to the Boy Scouts for things like internships and potential references.

According to the Jayhawk Area Council’s website, the purpose of the Washburn Merit Badge Conference is “to provide Scouts with qualified counselors for Merit Badges that can be earned, or partially earned, through the resources Washburn University has to offer.”

There are many different events and activities across the state and country that allow Scouts to earn badges; camps are one of them.

“I went to summer camp,” said Joseph Pilsl, Eagle Scout and Scoutmaster of Troop 180 of Maysville, Kansas. “I went to a merit badge [conference] like this [at Washburn]. I did a lot of traveling with my grandparents, and so I was able to do a lot of stuff like that and through my regular troop stuff.”

However, more than merit badges can be earned from participation in activities.

Preston Roby, Scoutmaster of Troop 165 of Emporia, thinks it’s important to learn life skills that he wished he learned at a young age. He thinks it’s important to get a taste of what some professions are like without the four year commitment.

Odin Reif, who is almost an Eagle Scout from Troop 10 at University United Methodist Church in Topeka, came to assist his troop leader, but has been to conferences before.

“I didn’t know I could take nuclear science or chemistry,” said Reif. “I’ve been to a couple conferences and they’re always fun to go to.”

Scouts could choose from 17 merit badges from chess to swimming to aviation, but only four of them were ones required for the Eagle rank. As Scouts earn badges, they also complete service hours and hold leadership positions within the Troop to advance in rank. Kids who participate in Scouting can gain many benefits and experiences.

“They are working toward their Eagle Scout and building character and also building connections,” said Melissa Huff, an adult leader in Wamego’s Troop 92. “My son, who is a Life Scout, recognizes that building connections is important. Because of that, he’s able to go to other events because other people are talking about him.”

Jay Stinson, another adult leader from Wamego’s Troop 92, said that Scouting events allow participants to meet Scouts from other troops and build friendships.

Edited by Justin Shepard, Alyssa Storm