HELENA – Scouts from around Montana got a chance Saturday to take on a variety of classes and earn merit badges.
Helena’s Troop 214 organized the seventh annual Merit Badge University at Carroll College. More than 400 Scouts and Venturers from 51 troops took part in the event.
“They’ve come from Kalispell and Havre and Belgrade and Lewistown,” said Beth Wheeler, one of the organizers. “They’re from everywhere.”
They had 38 classes to choose from, from first aid and fire safety to chemistry, robotics, aviation and space exploration. In many cases, Carroll professors and students were the instructors.
The event began when Carroll’s then-president Thomas Evans suggested the partnership. Wheeler said the event has grown significantly since then.
“We started with 100, and we have been as much as about 500 or so,” she said.
Among those participating this year were 19 girls. This is the first time that members of all-girl troops have taken part in the event. In February, girls began joining the Boy Scouts of America’s flagship program, now renamed Scouts BSA.
Organizers hope that, in addition to helping Scouts develop skills, the Merit Badge University will get them used to a college campus.
“This may be the only time that they’ve been on a college campus or considered ever being on a college campus,” Wheeler said. “Whether they end up choosing Carroll or somewhere else, taking away a little bit of the mystique and making them a little more comfortable is also one of our goals.”