Scout ‘college’ draws 240 to Coronado

       Despite cold and snow, some 240 Boy Scouts participated in a merit badge “college” at Coronado High School Nov. 14.

Led by Col. Michael Lakos (far right) and Lt. Col. Jim Benbow (next to him) from Peterson Field's Space Command, Boy Scouts in the Merit Badge College's space exploration class Nov. 14 ignite Estes Rockets into a snowy afternoon sky from the Coronado High School football field. About 240 Scouts participated.
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       Using 12 classrooms and the cafeteria, the Scouts attended morning and/or afternoon sessions taught by volunteer specialists in various merit-badge courses of study.
       The all-day event was open to any Scouts in the state for a fee of $10 that included pizza for lunch. Subjects ranged from dentistry to fly fishing, from golf to wilderness survival, from leatherwork to space exploration.
       The latter was literally one of the “high” points of the day, as about 20 Scouts (overseen by Col. Michael Lakos and Lt. Col. Jim Benbow of the Peterson Air Force Base Space Command) built Estes Rocket kits in a classroom, then carried them up to the Coronado football field and shot them into the snowflakes.
       Others braving the weather were the automotive maintenance and fly fishing classes, reported Gregg Graham, assistant scoutmaster for Coronado Troop 53, who led the event's organizing. The weather was a little too much for the golf class, however, which set up an impromptu putting green in the Coronado cafeteria.
       Overall, Graham said, “We thought it went great. Even though the weather wasn't very good, we adapted to the circumstances.”
       The college saw the awarding of 273 merit badges, “and many more are yet to be completed,” he said.
       Receiving positive feedback from Scouts, parents and instructors, Graham said he hopes to bring the event back next fall. He had gotten the idea after seeing local Scouts go to such “colleges” in the Denver area; he said the last time such was offered in the Pikes Peak region was at least 10 years ago.
       Among the supporters of the Troop 53 effort was Nathan Landry, the executive for one of the four districts covered by the Pikes Peak Council of the Boy Scouts of America (headquartered a few blocks from Coronado at 985 W. Fillmore St.) His district's boundaries are identical to those of School District 11, which includes Coronado. “They [the troop] had some good programs up there,” he said. “I'm very excited for them. They set a good, strong precedent [for future colleges].”
       Lakos described the experience as “a lot of fun. The weather added a whole layer of suspense to the day. But we got 22 of 22 rockets into the air.”

Scenes from the Boy Scout merit badge "college" Nov. 14 at Coronado High School... LEFT: Leatherwork class instructor Kent Murray-Cameron of Tandy Leather Company teaches students how to dye the leather crafts they’ve made. RIGHT: Gregg Graham, Coronado Troop 53’s assistant scoutmaster and the college’s lead organizer, stands at a hallway corner next to signs for classes that were going on.
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       Among the other instructors were KXRM-TV weatherman Terry Gerbstatdt (teaching about weather) and Gary Hickenlooper, who taught a class in his career field (dentistry) as well as one related to his hobby of car racing (auto maintenance). Others responding to Graham's requests included people from the Astronomical Society, the County Probation Office, Fort Carson and several area businesses.
       As for the use of the school, Troop 53 leaders had told Coronado they would clean up when the event was done, and according to Assistant Principal David Engstrom they were as good as their word. “We did some spot checks with teachers,” he said, “and asked them 'how did it go?' They said, 'We didn't know they were here.'”
       In exchange for the use of Coronado facilities, under a district policy for outside entities, Troop 53 provides services to the school. Engstrom said that before school in August, Scouts touched up the paint on the parking lot's fire and safety lanes, and “we're talking about painting sheds also.”

Scenes from the Boy Scout merit badge "college" Nov. 14 at Coronado High School... ABOVE: Col. Michael Lakos (right) and Lt. Col. Jim Benbow help Scouts with last-minute preparations before they took the Estes Rockets they'd assembled that day up to the football field (see photo on Page 1).
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