Southwestern Michigan College’s Niles Campus hosts the Boy Scouts of America LaSalle Council Algonquian District’s annual Merit Badge Fair this Saturday (March 9).
Algonquian District serves Berrien County, Mich., and St. Joseph and Marshall counties, Ind., including Niles, South Bend, Mishawaka, Plymouth and New Carlisle.
There are four districts. The others are Pioneer Trails, which includes Cass County, and Potawatomi and Dunes Moraine. The South Bend-based LaSalle Council is celebrating its centennial (1919-2019).
SMC instructors Allyson Starrett and Ferenc Sefcsik (welding), Kyle Schrock (automotive), Dave Spurlock (radio), Leon Letter (law), Julie Zabriskie (medicine), Melissa Kennedy (public health) and Donald Ricker (criminal justice) will take part in the event from opening flags at 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. at the Niles Campus, 33890 U.S. 12.
“We have over 165 youth registered and well over 200 if we include adults. This year we changed locations due to the wonderful administration, instructors and facilities SMC offers,” said Renee Kurtzweil of the Algonquian District. “This allows us to offer merit badges that are usually only offered at summer camp, like welding; composites — the first time ever offered; radio, automotive maintenance, medicine and public health.
“There are a total of 41 merit badges offered that day,” Kurtzweil said. “To achieve the rank of Eagle, scouts must complete 21 required merit badges, plus others. Merit badges serve as a means of career exploration, learning life skills and leadership opportunities.”
Saturday’s merit-badge topics also include American business, American heritage, citizenship in the community, nation and world, coin collecting, collections, crime prevention, dog care, emergency preparation, entrepreneurship, family life, fingerprinting, first aid, geocaching, genealogy, geology, graphic arts, Indian lore, moviemaking, music, nuclear science, personal fitness, personal management, pets, photography, reading, safety, scholarship, soil and water conservation, stamp collecting, sustainability, theater, traffic safety and weather.
Kurtzweil said scouts are fifth-12th-grade students from Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties, Mich., and St. Joseph, Elkhart, Starke, Marshall, LaPorte, Porter and LaGrange counties, Ind.