Merit Badge Seminar

Tarleton State University

Comanche Trail Council opened its first Merit Badge Seminar on the campus of Tarleton State University in Stephenville, TX in 1987, hosted by the University. They had one every year since then except in 1990 and 1991 when they underwent a change in council Scout Executives.  They resumed the Seminar in 1992.  The Seminar grew to over 650 Scouts and leaders coming to the event from four councils by 1995.  In 1997, the Seminar was held in Abilene at McMurry University in an effort to give the volunteers and Tarleton a rest.  However, the President of Tarleton State University wanted to event be held every year at the University.  So it was returned to the University in 1998 and has been held there ever since.

Once the Chisholm Trail Council had hosted their successful activity in Abilene, they also decided to have one every year at McMurry.  In addition, the former Heart of Texas Council, Waco, started having their own Seminar at Baylor University in order to provide such a program closer to their Scouts.  Thus the numbers at Tarleton, in recent years, has fallen back to about 350 Scouts and leaders.

Dr. Don Beach, Education Professor at Tarleton, has been the Dean of the "Merit Badge Seminar" since it was restarted in 1992.    Jimmy Erwin of Brownwood was Dean of the first two seminars.  Larry Smith and Mike Leese were very much a part of the first two merit badge seminars too. 

Joe Cude, of the University Math Department, was responsible for obtaining all the rooms for the merit badge instruction. His was a "go-between"  the Scouts and the University.   He also helped coordinate the seminar with the TSU Police and he was able to obtained two way radios for TSU so that they could be in contact with them in case rooms needed to opened etc. 

The format for the seminar has not changed much over the years, and in fact, has been copied by the other two councils.  On the first Saturday, everyone gathers in a central location for a welcome and instructions prior to heading off to their first of three merit badge classes.  In the class they received instruction in their selection merit badge and given a set of projects to complete prior to coming back to Tarleton in two weeks. About one third of the Scouts complete the merit badge at the second session. 

While the Scouts are doing their thing, the leaders are either receiving Basic Scout Leader Training or learning about different activities or programs of the council or on a National level. The outdoor session of leader training was usually held later in the Spring when the weather warmed up.  However, on most of these outdoor sessions, the Spring Rains came!  One year the subject was learning about the Religious Awards Program. Other year subjects included training of youth leaders, holding a Scoutmaster's Conference, unit Board of Reviews, planning a high adventure trip and general discussions on working with youth, recruiting and preparing for summer camp.  Subject selected were based on what leaders said they wanted to include in the next year's program.

The Scouts bring a sack lunch for their noon meal on the first Saturday.  One of the highlight events of the Merit Badge Seminar was the outdoor lunch at the second session.  Most of the time the weather cooperated, and only once was the lunch forced indoors because of rain.  But it has been cold with a brisk wind at other times.  That did not keep the Scouts from standing in line for the food.  The meal consisted of hamburgers and hot dogs, with all the trimmings.  The Scouts and leaders usually just sat on the grass and ate their meal and then proceeded to trade patches with other Scouts, or visit with Scouts from other councils.

The seminar would wrap up around 3:00 p.m. and everyone would head for home.  The completed merit badge sheets and partials were later mailed to the unit leaders, after the second Saturday, to hand out to their Scouts at a regular Troop meeting.  Several hundred merit badges were earned by the participants during each Seminar. 

Merit badges taught included  interesting badges not often offered at summer camp, such as computers, atomic energy, personal management, the citizenship series, art, electricity, pets, woodwork and sculpture, just to name a few of the many different merit badges a youth could take.

The last seminar held by the Comanche Trail Council was in 2002.  The Texas Trails Council held the same seminar at Tarleton from 2003 through 2008.  Of all the ongoing programs to help Scouts reach the rank of Eagle Scout, the Tarleton Merit Badge Seminar has probably been the most successful.  Many dedicated volunteers gave up two of their Saturdays to teach the badges, some having done this for many years.  The continued support of the seminar by the Scouts and leaders testify to the success of the event.  The seminar is held in February.

Starting in 2008, the seminar was held on one weekend, a Saturday and Sunday in an effort to help Scouts who could not come on two different Saturdays.  The same format has been used in 2009 and was added to the Abilene Merit Badge Seminar in 2010. 

However, the 19th annual TSU Merit Badge Seminar, sponsored by Tarleton State University and Texas Trails Council, was held on one day only, February 20, 2010 at a cost of $25.00.  A Scout could work on up to three (3) different merit badges. Several sessions are offered for popular and Eagle-required badges. All Scouts had be at least in the sixth grade, or a Tenderfoot Scout. Each Troop had to have at least TWO (2) ADULTS attending.  Adult Training included: Leader Specifics, Quality Unit/Centennial Award, and Life to Eagle.



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