Merit badge college draws more than 100 Scouts in Mason

MASON – Reaching the rank of Eagle Scout requires earning 21 merit badges – of which 12 are required of everyone – in such areas as citizenship, first aid, emergency preparedness and swimming. Earning a badge requires working with an approved counselor. And it all has to be done before reaching the age of 18.

In a small town with a small troop, it is sometimes difficult to find that approved instructor for a subject such as Citizenship in the World. That problem is solved with a “Merit Badge College,” which offers intensive work over a short period of time in a congenial atmosphere with other troops.

In 2002, while he was teaching in Pepperell, Mass., former Scoutmaster Ron Dube heard his students talking about such a college. Never having heard of such a thing, he asked about it.

“They said it was place where you could earn a badge. I asked around and no one in New Hampshire had ever heard of it,” Dube said.

So he organized one.

“That first year, we had about 40 kids, and the second about 65,” Dube said.

The “college” draws Scouts from across the southwestern part of the state, from Keene to Nashua, plus a few from the Pepperell area. It is the only such program offered in southern New Hampshire, and Dube wasn’t sure if there was another one anywhere in the state.

“This year, there about 110 boys,” Dube said. “One from Nashua, several from Milford and Wilton. Most are from the Keene, Jaffrey, Rindge area.”

The badges presented change each year and this year, the program offered four required badges, Citizenship in the Community, Nation and World, plus communications and personal management. Electives included electricity, music, wood carving, aviation and two combination courses, reading and scholarship and family life and genealogy.

The courses are offered on three Saturday mornings with a week between each session for research and writing.

“You can earn three or four badges,” Dube said, “if you work at it.”

Each Scout typically chooses three badges.

Mason Village is well suited for such a program with Town Hall and the elementary school across the street from each other and the Mann House, home to the town offices and library, within sight.