Northeast Kansas and Northwest Missouri Scouts BSA participants marked a new era on Saturday with the second annual Benedictine College Merit Badge Academy.
Though gatherings for the purpose of specialized education in differing merit badge interests are common, this is the first year in which fully gender-integrated scouting troops have been assembled in the region. The event is organized by Benedictine Enactus, a business-oriented nonprofit campus organization.
“My daughter was always very jealous of my son, who was actually an Eagle Scout,” said Scoutmaster John Williamson of Blue Springs, Missouri. “So when this opened up, she was very gung-ho to get involved. That’s one of the reasons why we’re here today; she wants to get those merit badges.”
Fields of study and skills presented for merit badge qualification by participating scouts included field biology, movie making, history, religious studies, astronomy and a broad array of other interests.
“I think it’s rather humbling, the fact that they come to us. I know that we have an education, it’s good for us to share it,” said BC student-instructor Marie Rioux. “But to just to have them all swarm here and come to learn for us, eh, it’s humbling.”
Scouts also participated in tours of the campus and the surrounding neighborhoods via the Atchison Area Chamber of Commerce’s trolley service.
“It gives them a good broad experience of what other communities have to offer,” Williamson said. “You know, if we were just around in our own neighborhood, we kind of know what’s going on around there. This gives them the opportunity to expand those horizons.”
Nick D’Adamo, Benedictine College SGA president, who serves in that capacity as leader of the whole student body, said his experiences as a scout provided invaluable lessons. He eventually attained the rank of Eagle after years of effort, a goal met by only two percent of all scouts, according to Scouts BSA.
“So, you should live by that every single day,” D’Adamo told assembled scouts at the St. John Paul II Student Center. “And so what being a Boy Scout has taught me ... just so many valuable things in life; how to become a man.”
Rioux said she sees the instruction seminars as a first step to broader learning in a scout’s chosen area of interest.
“Knowing really what makes it good and doing it with skill and art, that takes a little bit of education,” she said. “And so, sharing it with the scouts, especially when they’re young, I really want to do that, because then they can actually learn more on their own; they’ve got all of the fundamental tools.”
The lumbering train of local government made a stop over the weekend at the historic Santa Fe Depot.
Amid the artifacts of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, freshman U.S. Congressman Steve Watkins, R-Kansas, as well as state Sen. Dennis Pyle, R-Hiawatha and state Rep. John Eplee, R-Atchison, held court.
The meeting marked something of a reunion of political rivals, as Watkins defeated Pyle and several other Republican hopefuls last year to win the nomination for the Second Congressional District. Since taking office in the stead of former Rep. Lynn Jenkins, Watkins, who sits with the U.S. House GOP minority, has focused on countering the agenda of newly empowered Democrats.
“The Democrats are more determined than ever to push policies that are out of step with Kansans,” Watkins told the crowd at the depot. “So we’re determined to push back.”
Watkins is among the vast majority of Congressional Republicans in pushing for stricter border security, including the construction of President Donald Trump’s planned wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, which the Trump administration is attempting to build using emergency powers; Watkins voted against a resolution of disapproval last month on the use of those powers, before Trump eventually used his first presidential veto to stop it.
“I’m a ‘build the wall’ kind of guy,” Watkins declared during the event on Saturday.
From there, the conversation with constituents largely turned to the cost of health care and to recovery from the flooding of the Missouri River. All three officials pledged to continue to pressure the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which regulates the river, to revise its practices in such a way that another major flood is forestalled as long as possible. However, Eplee cautioned on any desire to “second guess” the Corps.
“I’ve listened in on all of the Corps conference calls and other conversations,” Eplee said. “I’m confident they’re correct when they’re asked, ‘Was this an act of God?’ and they say ‘99 percent of it was, yes.’ It was very difficult to prevent.”
On health care, as a sign of current disagreements, Eplee and Pyle participated in an impromptu debate on the merits of expanding coverage provided by KanCare, the state’s public-private health insurance network enabled by the federal Medicaid program.
If Kansas HB 2066 — of which Eplee, a practicing physician, is a key sponsor — is passed into law, more than 130,000 Kansans who currently make too much money to receive Medicaid, but who don’t make enough money to readily afford insurance, will receive health coverage.
To become law, it will first have to get past Pyle and Kansas Senate leaders who largely agree with him. Chiefly, Pyle said, he is worried that the current federal provision in which federal dollars are to be used to pay 90 percent of Medicaid expansion costs will eventually be repealed. If that happens, Pyle said, Kansas will have no choice but to hike taxes, which he is determined to prevent.
“That match has to come from somewhere,” Pyle said. “Are we going to stick it to the taxpayers again?”
Eplee said he believes there is a majority in the Senate to pass Medicaid expansion; however, Senate President Susan Wagle has thus far declined to allow a vote; Pyle discounted this narrative, saying senators have had chances to overrule the chair and get a floor vote, but have simply chosen not to do so. The Legislature resumes its session on May 1; Eplee said he is cautiously optimistic it will pass.
“I will readily admit that I get passionate about this issue,” Eplee told the crowd. “I’m a working rural physician and it’s one of the most important subjects in the world to me. We have got to look out for rural Kansans, we’ve got to take care of our rural hospitals. It should not bankrupt you to get the care you need. That’s not right.”
AHS Principal James “Bryon” Hanson is moving on.
Hanson has resigned for a new position as the superintendent of schools at the Callaway, Nebraska School District. USD 409 Board of Education members accepted Hanson’s position at their regular meeting Monday, April 8, effective June 30.
“Thank you for being a game changer,” 409 Board Vice-president Carrie Sowers said. Other board members present also thanked Hanson for his seven years of service with the district.
Board members appointed Sowers, fellow Board Members Rick Zumbrunn and Sean Crittendon to serve on the AHS Principal Screening & Interview Team to seek Hanson’s replacement. The proposed timeline is to screen applicants Friday, April 26. Team members expect to interviews Thursday, May 1, contingent on the number of applicants to interview.
Hanson, a Johnson County native, will take over the berth to lead what he described as a small rural school district in the middle of Nebraska. If the district were located in Kansas, it would be classified as 1A. Constituents of the Callaway district are known as the Bears and are part of a sports cooperative with the Bobcats of a neighboring school district, Hanson said. The two districts are about 20 miles apart from one another.
The Callaway community has economic strengths to recommend it, Hanson said. It is a small town with a hospital, a few restaurants, businesses and a school all within a short walking distance of each other.
Hanson originally came to USD 409 to serve as principal at Atchison Middle School. His last four of the seven years with the district has been principal at Atchison High School. Hanson was one of the three final candidates for consideration to replace Superintendent Susan Myers, who will retire at the end of June and be replaced by Garden City school leader Renee Scott.
Hanson has worked a total of 16 years in public education and is currently seeking his doctorate. The son of educators, Hanson was something of a late-bloomer when he decided to pursue his career path toward education. His previous background included construction and restaurant management.
A Nebraska man arrested last week in a vehicular pursuit led by the Atchison County Sheriff’s Office has been charged with aggravated battery against a law enforcement officer.
According to a criminal complaint filed by Atchison County Attorney Sherri Becker, Joshua Herman Dale Poppe, age 28 at the time of his arrest, is accused of causing physical contact with a law enforcement officer “in a manner whereby great bodily harm, disfigurement or death can be inflicted.” No physical injuries have been reported; the charge is a level 4 person felony, in reference to the state’s 10-level felony grid, level 10 being the least severe.
Atchison County Sheriff Jack Laurie previously reported that Poppe, while fleeing from Sheriff’s Office authorities, is accused of nearly striking the person of a sheriff’s deputy with his vehicle; the deputy had been on foot outside of his own vehicle. Laurie said authorities had thought Poppe’s vehicle to be disabled at that time and prepared to take him into custody, before the pursuit continued.
The pursuit began along U.S. Highway 73 in rural Atchison County, before proceeding into Atchison city limits; the Atchison Police Department provided support in the pursuit.
Poppe is also charged with:
Aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer, a level 6 person felony.
Fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer, a level 9 person felony.
Reckless driving, an unclassified misdemeanor.
Driving with a suspended license, a class B nonperson misdemeanor.
Possession of marijuana, a class B nonperson misdemeanor.
Possession of drug paraphernalia, a class B nonperson misdemeanor.
Poppe made his first appearance in court on Monday afternoon before Judge Robert Bednar. John Kurth has been named as court-appointed defense counsel. Poppe is next due in court on Monday, April 15 for a status hearing.
Learn more online: Scouts BSA
View a video feature on the Scouts BSA event at Benedictine College via Atchison Globe and News-Press NOW online at atchisonglobenow.com.