Contact: Wendel Sloan at 505.562.2253
Reporter: Colleen Wright
PORTALES – During his West Texas childhood, Dr. Newton Hilliard always wanted to be in the Boy Scouts, but the 28 miles to the nearest town made this impossible. Now as an adult, the chance has presented itself.
The chemistry professor at Eastern New Mexico University has become an avid supporter of the association, especially the opportunities it offers people of all ages.
"When I was young all of my friends got to be part of the Boy Scouts; I always wanted to be in a troop but we lived too far out of town," Dr. Dr. Hilliard explained. Now he contributes many hours to the group. His two sons, Chris and Jeremy, are actively involved in Scouts and his daughter, Kimberly, is part of the Girl Scouts. His wife is also planning on taking an active role.
In March, over 150 Boy Scouts from around the region will gather at a scout camp in northern New Mexico to take classes to earn merit badges. Many classes will be offered, including environmental science taught by Dr. Hilliard. According to the nature lover, the boys must earn a certain amount of merit badges yearly. Badges include environmental science, atomic energy, railroading, basket-weaving and entrepreneurship.
"My interest in environmental science comes from my interest and curiosity about the outdoors," Dr. Hilliard says. "Growing up my family always went camping, which I have passed on to my own family."
Dr. Hilliard became involved with volunteering for the Scouts when his son joined a troop in Louisiana.
"I remember the first campout I was asked to attend with the boys," Dr. Hilliard recalls. "The first night it rained nine inches, the second six-and-a-half inches; by the end of the trip the boys had to actually wring out their sleeping bags."
According to Dr. Hilliard, the biggest problem with Boy Scouts is that people are not aware of the varied opportunities. "When people think of the Boy Scouts, many think of the Norman Rockwell painting with all the little boys in cub scout uniforms, but there is so much more." The organization offers troops for young boys through young men.
"We are trying to install what is called a Venture Crew on our campus," Dr. Hilliard explained. "A Venture Crew is a co-ed group of teenagers to young adults. They earn merit badges like the younger troops, except their badges include becoming a certified lifeguard, becoming CPR- and first-aid certified, and some even become EMTs."
Dr. Hilliard has lived in Portales for three years with his wife of 20 years and three children. "I love living here; I came here from southern Louisiana and it was such a relief moving from all the crime to Portales," the professor says.
"It has been nice to give my children the opportunity to be involved in this invigorating group that I wished for during my rural West Texas childhood."