Long Reach High School Leadership Class

Jennifer Whiddon’s Long Reach High School Leadership Class coordinated a school-wide food drive that provided 12 carts full of food to the Elkridge Food Pantry. Pictured, back row, from left: Nimrod Boinote, Darryl Taylor, Mallory Gray, Tarik Diggs, De'Asia Clark, Anthony Baldelli, Chuck Coleman and Arionna Gonsalves; front row, from left: Tracy Crowder (former Long Reach High parent and bus driver from Bowen's Bus Service), Jen Whiddon (teacher), Abby Caspar, Heejin Jeon, Elayne Villar-Zavaleta and Earth (Thanakorn) Chanthong; center front: Lydia Gbodai. (Submitted photo / April 17, 2012)

There are plenty of stories where a single negative incident can give a bad rap to an entire group of people, whole communities, schools, etc. And, for every one of those negatives, there are plenty of amazingly positive people and outreach efforts that, in my opinion, effectively reinstate the good in humankind.

One such group of those who have that type of effect is Jennifer Whiddon's Long Reach High School Leadership Class. Whiddon is a government and government mastery teacher at Long Reach that teaches a social studies elective that allows students to earn service hours as they research, plan and execute service projects. Her class recently coordinated a school-wide food drive with a set goal to collect 12 carts full of food on behalf of the Elkridge Food Pantry, a local resource that provides for the less fortunate or those who have recently come upon difficult economic times because of job loss, illness, or the loss of their home or loved ones.

"I feel that taking part in this project has been a good experience and it makes me feel good that people would take the time to help out someone else who needed it," Leadership student and project chairwoman Abigail Caspar said. Senior Anthony Baldelli added, "I feel that this project was a good way to give back to the community … a way to get people to work together to reach a common goal."

To market the project, students crafted posters, created commercials that were shown on the morning announcement program, and came up with other creative ways to publicize the drive. They also tracked the donations in order to award prizes to the class and the student organization that donated the most food.

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The leadership students and their teacher delivered the donations in person to the Elkridge Food Pantry on March 27, appropriately enough in a bright yellow school bus. Tracy Crowder, the parent of a former Long Reach student was the bus driver (and an instrumental part of the loading and unloading process). The bus was gratiously provided courtesy of Bowen Bus Service.

Upon the students arrival at the food pantry with their busload of goodies, Lori Gerus, volunteer and garden coordinator at the pantry, provided the group with some background about the organization, its philosophy, and how the pantry operates. After unloading, the students spent the morning sorting the goods and organizing the food pantry so everything would be ready the next time the EFP opened its doors.

"The students very much enjoyed the visit to the Food Pantry and have already asked if we can go back to help out again. They especially liked the idea of helping out in the organic garden," Whiddon said.

Project chairwoman Caspar summed up the project: "In achieving this goal, we feel as a school that we have accomplished something big. We are very proud of everyone who participated in this event."

Congratulations to these fine young men and women of Long Reach High School.

Speaking of feeding those in need, this coming weekend is the annual Scouting for Food drive. Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Venturing Crews and Girl Scouts are working together to help feed the hungry in the Howard County. On Saturday, April 21, these young ladies and men will be going door-to-door to collect donations of non-perishable food and then delivering it to more than 30 food pantries in the county. Last year, this initiative collected more than 87,000 pounds of food and the goal is to do even more on behalf of our local hungry families.

Be on the lookout for a tan plastic bag from Mars grocery which will be dropped off at your home a few days before collection day. Fill it with unexpired, non-perishable food and leave it at your door or by the mailbox and the scouts will pick up your donations on April 21.

For more information, please email scoutingforfoodNPD@verizon.net or call chairperson Sori Meredith at 410-303-4890. The scouts would like to thank you in advance for your generosity.

Here's something reminiscent of a bygone era: The Spring Tea at Grace! Don your most colorful spring hat and gloves and join the ladies for Tea at Grace on Sunday, April 22 at 2 p.m. at Grace Episcopal Church, 6725 Montgomery Road.

"A Victorian Spring Garden" has been chosen for this year's theme, and this charming event will feature a delectable lunch buffet. Allow them to pamper you with tea, scones and teacakes elegantly served at each table. Tickets are $20, and a prize will be given for the best hat.

For more information, call Darlene Ciepiela at 410-796-3270.

Kindness counts. And, on that note, here's a very special opportunity you don't want to miss! Finding Kind, an award-winning film, and the film's creators, Lauren Parsekian and Molly Thompson, will be presented at Elkridge Landing Middle School on Wednesday, April 25 at 7 p.m. The film deals with the effects of meanness in the "girl world."

It also introduces the "Kind Campaign," an internationally recognized movement based upon the powerful belief in KINDness that brings awareness and healing to the negative and lasting effects of girl-against-girl "crimes." The event is free and recommended for ages 11 and older (parents are also invited and encouraged to attend).

Filmmaking partners Parsekian and Thompson met as college students at Pepperdine University. Both of these young ladies have their own heart-wrenching story that adversely affected them during middle and high school. Parsekian had even developed an eating disorder and had attempted suicide in middle school as a result of bullying from her group of so-called friends that suddenly turned on her and ostracized her from what they collectively referred to as "their group."

As college students, these young women felt a call to help change the tide of the growing concern of bullying. Their own personal suffering led them on a cross-country road trip with their moms to document on film the cruelty of female bullying.

In their 10,000-mile journey, the women met and talked with more than 30,000 girls, visiting more than 60 cities and set-up "Truth Booths" capturing tearful and poignant memories and confessions from girls across the nation. After a presentation by Parkesian and Thompson to the seventh- and eighth-grade girls at Houston's Kinkaid School, Robin Doran, a school counselor encouraged them to take this message out to the masses to help alleviate some real world issues for pre-teens and teens alike.