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Tigard teen earns them all

Tigard Boy Scout one of few to earn every merit badge by age 15.


by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - George Christensen, an 15-year-old Eagle Scout with Troop 843 in Tigard, dons his sash of 137 merit badges. Christensen has earned every merit badge available, and is one of 200 to have ever earned them all.The motto of the Boy Scouts of America is “Be Prepared.” Boy, is George Christensen prepared.

The 15-year-old Tigard High School student has studied seemingly every subject imaginable, earned more than 100 merit badges to prove it, and he doesn’t have plans to slow down.

George was 11 when he earned his first Boy Scout merit badge. Less than five years later, he’s done the unthinkable for most scouts: He’s earned all of them.

Last week, George — a member of Troop 843 in Tigard — became one of only a select group of Boy Scouts to earn all 132 merit badges.

It’s an exceptionally rare accomplishment, especially for a scout so young.

“We are so proud of him,” says his mother Liz Christensen. “It’s good to see him have a goal and then finish it.”

Merit badges are awards scouts earn after learning a particular skill. You name it and there is likely a merit badge for it: Archery, photography, architecture, American business, bugling, bird study, traffic safety and nuclear science are all skills that can earn scouts merit badges.

Last week, George was awarded his final five merit badges from his troop leaders at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Southwest North Dakota Street, bringing his total to a staggering 137 — four more badges than possible.

When the Boy Scouts of America celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2010, it offered a selection of merit badges only available that year, allowing George to do what otherwise couldn’t be done.

That number likely puts George over the top for the most merit badges earned by anyone across the country, says Liz Christensen. “With those Centennial badges, we think he has more than anyone else in the country right now.”

The Boy Scouts of America don’t keep track of scouts who earn every merit badge, but it’s estimated that only six scouts will earn all 137 merit badges this year.

‘Such a good experience’

             George set the goal at an early age to earn every merit badge. “I started with that idea from the beginning,” he says. “I didn’t know how many there were but there are a lot of merit badges that people don’t get and I had thought it sounded cool.”

He worked hard, earning dozens of merit badges every year. “I knew it wasn’t impossible,” he says.

George earned the rank of Eagle Scout — the highest rank possible in Scouts — at age 13 with more than 80 merit badges.

To earn his Eagle rank George needed to earn 21 merit badges by the time he turned 18.

A scout’s uniform isn’t complete without their sash, displaying the merit badges the scout has earned. George has to wear two sashes in order to display all of his badges.

George says his Mormon faith is what led him to get started — the Latter-day Saints church has a long tradition of scouting — but says he gets much more out of scouting than merit badges. “It’s fun, and it’s such a good experience,” George says.

Learning about such a diverse array of subjects isn’t far from the norm for George, says Liz Christensen. As a boy, George was always learning, so studying the far-ranging topics was far from new.

“He has always been into learning,” said Liz Christensen. “As a small kid, he was always learning odd things about the world, so scouting really fit into his personality.”

Learning is something the Christensens do often. Their living room is home to numerous globes and several sets of encyclopedias.

Six more merit badges

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - George Christensen checks his Boy Scout manual well worn after years of use. The book lists the requirements for all 132 merit badges. George, 15, has earned them all, and then some. Every merit badge came with a set of challenges and obstacles to overcome, George says.

Some were physically difficult, like his shotgun-shooting merit badge, which took several tries to complete. Earning his fly fishing merit badge took several attempts as well, and he once accidentally caught his mother Liz Christensen with his hook.

Others were difficult to earn because counselors, who test the scouts on their skills, were hard to find.

“It is often really difficult to find a counselor for a merit badge like welding,” George says. “You need to find someone who not only knows how to weld, but they have to also be a Boy Scout counselor, too.”

That often meant traveling to find counselors able to test George on his knowledge, Liz Christensen says. When George attempted to earn his merit badge in search and rescue — one of the newest Boy Scout badges — there weren’t any local counselors qualified to test George on his skills. He and others of his troop worked with the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, which organized a special class for the boys.

“When we were trying to find a counselor who was qualified in farm mechanics, we just started calling farm stores,” Liz says. “There just aren’t that many people that do that on a regular basis.”

In the end the family found someone willing to become a Boy Scout counselor so that he could work with George on his merit badge.

Which badge was the most fun to earn? George can’t pick a favorite.

“Whitewater rafting, or kayaking,” he says. “Oh, and fly fishing. And scuba diving, snow sports, and welding. Did I mention motor boating?”

Now that he can count himself accomplished in everything from horseback riding to public speaking, George says he feels like he has done something worthwhile.

“I think I’m fairly well rounded now,” George says.

And George isn’t finished. The Boy Scouts of America has announced it plans to release six new merit badges next year. George is already planning to earn those.

“I told him ‘At this point, we can be done,’” Liz Christensen says. “But he wants to earn the rest.”

Next year’s badges include topics such as mining, animation and advanced computing.