WAYNESBURG – Waynesburg University’s inaugural Merit Badge University brought in roughly 300 Boy Scouts eager to earn one of the 20 merit badges offered on Saturday.
These boys came to Waynesburg for an event which required nearly six months of planning, more than 100 volunteers and a great commitment from the entire university community.
After seeing the eagerness to participate, the satisfaction from learning and the joy of every participating Boy Scout, the woman who developed the idea for Merit Badge University said everything was worth it.
“My cheeks hurt from smiling so much,” said Dr. Jacquelyn Core, university provost.
Core stopped at each session at least once during the event, allowing her to witness the pride these Boy Scouts took in their learning. Her youngest son, Preston, seemed to enjoy his experience every bit as much as the other scouts Core encountered.
“My youngest son is in the pottery class, so I stopped by this afternoon and he was working on a wheel with a real pot,” said Core. “He was smiling from ear to ear, and everybody in there was just having a great time. All these kids had these pots they had made and were so proud of.”
Core echoed something that Douglas Lee, university president, stated in an address to the scouts at the onset of the day. Waynesburg is committed to helping students lead lives of purpose, and so is the Boy Scouts of America. That is why the university was so willing to open its doors to Boy Scouts from various troops around the area.
“One of the great things about scouting and Waynesburg University is that they do dovetail so well. The scouting program is really about building leadership skills and educating, building a heart for service and building good servant leaders,” said Core. “That and its faith base are right in line with what we do here at Waynesburg University.”
This is not the first time Waynesburg has had an association with BSA. In fact, Waynesburg’s roots in scouting run deep.
General Edward Martin founded the first scouting unit in Greene County after graduating from Waynesburg College in 1901. Martin also served as governor of Pennsylvania from 1943-1947, and then as a senator for more than a decade.
Lee, the 15th president of the university, is also an Eagle Scout.
“At Waynesburg University, we’re all about tradition,” said Core. “Scouting is one of our traditions.”
During the event, the Boy Scouts were taught about their chosen subjects during morning and afternoon sessions separated by a luncheon in Benedum Dining Hall and a tour of the campus. The participants, who varied in age between 10-18 years old, were given a t-shirt and patch at days end and will receive merit badges at a later date as long as they completed each requirement and prerequisite.
Core stated one of the original goals of Merit Badge University was to bring 100 Boy Scouts to campus. By the time registration had ended, 314 participants had signed up.
According to Core, this was made possible because of the way students and faculty rallied around the event.
“The thing that has been really inspiring here has been the level of institutional support,” said Core. “There were so many people that have become an active and committed part of the team here.”
Core said Merit Badge University was held for a two-fold purpose. First, it was a service to the Boy Scouts who wanted to learn about a particular concentration and earn a merit badge, some of which are required for Eagle Scout certification, in the process.
Second, Merit Badge University served as a recruiting tool for the institution.
While many students that attended are not ready to make a college choice, Core said several parents expressed their fondness of the campus and what the university stands for.
“I was walking from Stewart Hall up to Buhl Hall and I ran into some people in the park, and one of the gentlemen I ran into said ‘I really want to try to convince my son to come to college here,’” said Core. “That was a high point for me because it shows we really are authentic.”
Staying true to its mission of service, Core said the university offered this day to local Boy Scouts knowing the school would not profit. For just $10, participating scouts were given a lunch, t-shirt, patch, informational packet and their chosen merit badge session, while the university received the opportunity to continue its tradition of scouting in return.
“We hoped to price it so it would be affordable and that they [the Boy Scouts] would get something out of it,” said Core.
A date is already set for another Merit Badge University next fall, but after hearing such a great response from Boy Scouts and their parents, a similar event may also occur in the spring.
“Coming into today, I thought we were leaning toward not doing it again in the spring,” said Core. “What I told several of the parents is that we want people to come here and be excited about it, so we didn’t want to have it too often. Everybody today seemed to say ‘no, we would come in the fall and in the spring and we’d come every year.’ Everybody seemed to have liked it, which is fantastic.”