Drawing more Scouts than ever

Published 5:01 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Hampden-Sydney College (H-SC) welcomed its largest group of Scouts to its eighth annual Merit Badge College Day in February, according to a recent college press release.

“The Boy Scouts of America has as its aim character building and citizenship training,” H-SC officials said in the release. “With our own focus on forming good men and good citizens, Hampden-Sydney is the perfect host for the Merit Badge College Day. For the eighth consecutive year, the H-SC community came out in full force — in pouring rain — to support the event, from faculty and staff members to students and alumni.”

The release continued by highlighting that with approximately 380 Scouts accompanied by 60 of their leaders in attendance, the 2019 Merit Badge College Day was H-SC’s largest to date.

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Truly a communitywide endeavor, the event was coordinated in part by 20 Hampden-Sydney student volunteers, led by student organizer and Eagle Scout Charlie Lemon, a sophomore biology major from Roanoke, officials cited in the release. They continued by stating that Scott Schmolesky, director of high adventure at Hampden-Sydney and the coordinator of this year’s merit badge event, hopes to build upon the legacy established by Randy Reed, a  1982 H-SC graduate and the college’s director of planned giving — an Eagle Scout himself and coordinator of H-SC’s first seven Merit Badge College days.

Schmolesky said in the release, “A lot of work and months of preparation go into planning a large event like this, and the information that Randy passed on to me has been invaluable.”

Merit badge courses led by Hampden-Sydney student, faculty, staff and alumni experts ranged in topics from fire safety and fly-fishing to art and nuclear science, the release highlighted. Scouts from the Heart of Virginia Council earned up to two merit badges chosen from a list of 17 programs during the daylong event.

But the Scouts weren’t the only ones to benefit, officials noted in the release. This year, adult Scout leaders had the opportunity to attend a full-day wilderness survival seminar instructed by wilderness expert Will Frank, a 1969 H-SC grad, while multiple campus departments incorporated the Scouts into their weekend events as well.

The released cited that the Ferguson Career Center’s spring career fair featured a workshop on scouting and career networking: “How Nonprofit and Scouting Experience Can Benefit Your Leadership.” Additionally, the admissions office hosted a prospective student weekend for Eagle Scouts complete with a “Big Game” dinner and an overnight stay with current Eagle Scout students.

Hampden-Sydney’s commitment to Boy Scouts of America does not end with Merit Badge College Day, officials stated in the release. H-SC not only welcomes students with a background in scouting, but it also offers a $5,000 scholarship per year — $20,000 over four years — to all accepted Eagle Scouts who attend the college.

“We believe that Hampden-Sydney has among the highest percentages of Eagle Scouts of any college or university in the country at 11.1 percent of the student body,” H-SC Dean of Admissions Anita Garland said in the release.

The missions of both the Boy Scouts of America and Hampden-Sydney College align along a shared focus on character, officials cited. Scouts are passionate about building character; Hampden-Sydney takes it from there and helps transform young men into adults who make a positive difference in the world.

The release concluded by recalling that last year in a feature story on a Boy Scouting blog, H-SC President Dr. Larry Stimpert aptly made the case that “Hampden-Sydney is a perfect fit for Scouts pursuing higher education.”

Officials said, “Truer than ever, indeed it is.”