More than 650 Boy Scouts from across Kansas traveled to Kansas State University Saturday to attend the 19th annual K-State Merit Badge Conference and Target First Class.
The scouts represented more than 50 troops from across the state and were able to take classes in a range of subjects including aviation, fire safety, animal science and photography that could lead to earning up to two merit badges.
K-State President Kirk Schulz, who doubles as president of the Coronado Area Council, spoke to the scouts during the conference’s opening ceremony and reminisced about his own experience rising to the rank of Eagle Scout. “It’s something I’m particularly proud of,” Schulz said, adding that the leadership skills he learned as a scout helped him throughout his career. He said atomic energy and engineering had interested him as a scout and implored the scouts to explore their own interests.
“[The scout motto] ‘Be prepared,’ will be with you for the rest of your life,” Schulz said. He said his preparedness for any situation, like having a Swiss Army knife at the ready when necessary, still marks him as a scout to others.
Schulz encouraged the gathering to work toward becoming an Eagle Scout, telling them it would make a big difference in their lives.
The scouts ranged in age from 11 to 18 and had the opportunity to attend two 3.5 hour classes.
Younger or more recent scouts attended Target First Class, where they could earn basic achievements to move toward the First Class rank.
Don Sheppard, scout executive with the Coronado Area Council, said scouts learn basic life and leadership skills to earn their first class rank. One such class involved the basics of cartography, with counselors teaching them about the symbols on the map, what the different colors indicate and how to understand contour lines.
Sheppard said the conference is a wonderful opportunity for adults to share their experience with young people and for boys to explore a variety of skills and interests, better preparing them for college. “And it’s a lot of fun,” he said. Sheppard’s own interests as a scout focused on outdoor adventures.
He said the conference’s college environment is beneficial because it allows them to offer merit badges in subjects such as architecture, nuclear science and engineering.
“I really want to encourage families to get their young men involved,” Sheppard said.
Ryan Pickett, Konza District executive, said the conference allows scouts from smaller troops to advance in rank. He said smaller troops might normally not have had the opportunity to pursue some of the subjects offered otherwise.
Pickett, who also rose to the rank of Eagle Scout, said he was interested in sports as a scout and still remembers completing his vet medicine merit badge. He said he helped a local veterinarian with tasks such as spaying and neutering cats and dogs and had to learn the anatomy of animals to earn his badge.
At the conference, scouts also have the opportunity to take classes, among other subjects, in railroading, public speaking, traffic safety, chemistry, geo-caching, citizenship, electricity and crime prevention.
To earn a merit badge, for example, in crime prevention, scouts must follow eight requirements that include discussing the roles and values of law in society, preparing a notebook of newspaper clippings that address crime and crime prevention in their community, discussing with their counselor the impact of gangs on their community and inspecting their own neighborhood for opportunities that may lead to crime.
They are also asked to assist in the planning and organization of a crime prevention program in their community such as a Neighborhood Watch, Community Watch, or Crime Stoppers or with their parents’ and counselor’s approval, visit a jail or detention facility or a criminal court hearing.