Staff Photo by Stacey Hairston:
Boy Scouts learn about space exploration with instructor Andre Peery during the eighth annual Boy Scout Merit Badge College session last Saturday at Benjamin Franklin Middle School.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer
Over 300 Boy Scouts and 50 adult leaders from the Blue Ridge Mountain Council converged on Benjamin Franklin Middle School Saturday for the first of two Boy Scout Merit Badge College sessions.
The eighth annual Merit Badge College took place March 16 at the middle school with Boy Scouts from the Big Lick and V-Da-Li districts.
Scouts were given the opportunity to earn up to four merit badges between March 16 and April 13, when the second session of the college will take place. Seven hundred seats were filled for the 38 classes offered at the two sessions.
"All seats were filled within 12 hours of being offered," said Mike O'Brochta. "There is a huge interest and this is the largest Merit Badge College to date."
The college was organized and managed by O'Brochta and Brenda Perdue, two adult volunteer leaders within the Blue Ridge Mountains Council.
Scouts attended merit badge courses taught by 27 professionals or leaders in their fields.
Merit badge classes included first aid, citizenship in the community, family life, personal fitness, railroading and geocashing.
Counselors (or class teachers) included engineers, doctors, lawyers, nurses and naturalists.
"These are professional experts and dedicated adults spending their time in classrooms, giving the best of what they have to the Scouts," O'Brochta said.
During the opening ceremony, honor and mention were given to two Scouts killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings last year -- Jack Pinto and Ben Wheeler.
"These two Scouts never got to become Eagles," O'Brochta said, as he encouraged the Scouts in attendance to take advantage of the knowledge given to them and the opportunity to become Eagle Scouts.
O'Brochta said merit badges have been an important part of scouting since the organization began over 100 years ago.
All labor for the event was provided by volunteers who donated 2,500 hours, he said.
"These volunteers have found their niche," said O'Brochta. "Once they got into scouting, they started volunteering year after year, and they love what they do."
In recent years, the most popular merit badges have been first aid with 6,361,479 participants, swimming with 5,776,804, camping with 4,242,599, cooking with 4,074,054 and citizenship in the community with 3,068,900.
All costs were covered by a $12 registration fee.
The Blue Ridge Mountain Council is composed of scouts from 21 counties and nine cities in Southwest and South Central Virginia with council headquarters located in Roanoke.
A list of counselors and professionals on hand for Saturday's event includes Andre Peery, space exploration; Bob Garst, bird study and forestry; Med Miller, forestry; Breck Hudson, first aid; Brian Lang, personal fitness; Charles Miller, citizenship in the nation; Christy Porterfield, emergency preparedness; Dan Derringer, aviation; John Allgauer, emergency preparedness; John Sadler, chess; John Webber, citizenship in the community; Judie Snipes, family life; Lucas Snipes, family life; Kraig Neidlgh, railroading; Lyn Atkins, photography; Mike Eisenman, plumbing and electricity; Rhonda Furrow, family life; Rick Groesbeck, genealogy; Frank Bowman, genealogy; Ricky Furrow, disabilities awareness; Allen Alderman, disabilities awareness; Ronnie Amos, plumbing and electricity; Tammy Arotzarena, public health and safety; Terry Gump, geocashing; Tom Magri, communications; Wayne Shepherd, citizenship in the world; and John Eure, citizenship in the world.