APO continues long running service project

APO continues long running service project

By Catherine Ferris

For Boy Scouts looking to advance to the next level of scout hood, it is necessary to earn various merit badges. At the University of Massachusetts, the co-ed service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega (APO), offers boy scouts opportunities to work for these badges through a program called Merit Badge University (MBU). On Saturday, April 4, APO hosted the second session of MBU.

MBU is a spring event that takes place over two separate Saturdays, involving brothers and pledges of APO. This year, 37 brothers and 11 pledges took part in MBU.

Ben Savage, a sophomore and member of APO, was a Boy Scout liaison and MBU chair member this year, and described his position as “the troubleshooter.”

Savage talked about MBU as an opportunity for scouts to earn badges they may not necessarily be able to earn elsewhere, including Eagle Scout badges. He went on to explain the many different types of subjects offered through the program, which includes theatre, chemistry and animal science.

Some programs, like animal science, require more advanced facilities to teach the scouts than what is offered in Herter Hall, the building on campus where the majority of the teaching occurs. In this case, the scouts go to the University’s barn close to campus.

There are two sessions on the two Saturdays, which go from 8 a.m. and run until 4 p.m., with an hour break for lunch.

In order to make sure the teaching process goes smoothly, brothers and pledges are matched with classes in an area they have a specialty in. They are also required to undergo training in Youth Protection to make sure the scouts are in a safe and secure environment.

This year, the UMass chapter of APO managed to host 500 boy scouts from several states, including Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut and New Hampshire. This was an improvement from last year’s attendance that counted between 470-480 scouts. Savage said he hopes the attendance will rise to about 550 by next year, and 600-700 scouts by the 25th year, which is in 2017.

Savage also mentioned that although other APO chapters, like chapters located at Boston University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, host MBU on their campuses, the UMass chapter of APO has the highest number of scouts attending MBU in the area.

Savage sees growth that will continue at a relatively steady rate, but can see growth spiking dramatically if they were supported and promoted more from the University.

If such a dramatic increase were to occur, APO would need some outside help, whether it comes from certain clubs or professors. In this situation, Savage is “more than willing to bring in outside organizations to help.”

He went on to say that there was limited direct interaction with the professors, and suggested that it would be great if there were certain classes that were taught by collegiate professors. Savage continued and said that if there was a young scout who had an interest in a specific subject, and had the chance to be taught by a professor, that scout may resume studying that subject.

Savage looks forward to the future of the service project, saying, “I’m glad it’s expanding. I’m glad we can reach out to the scouts.”

Catherine Ferris can be reached at [email protected]