Catonsville High School student earns Comet Leader award for SAT crossword

Catonsville High School freshman Emma Connelly was awarded a Comet Leader Award Tuesday for her work in designing a weekly crossword puzzle to help students study vocabulary for the SATs.

"We have this new motto that we've been doing," said Tracy Rehmert, a member of the committee that presents the leader awards. "Be Your Best, Do Your Best, Create the Best."

She said the Comet Leader Award was created this year to recognize students who stand out in the "create" category by coming up with innovative ways to make the school on Bloomsbury Avenue a better school.

The first award went to juniors Hannah Lane and Rachel Albert in March for their efforts to begin and grow the school's ballroom dance club.

Emma received the second award for creating a program that takes a list of weekly SAT study words and turns them into an interactive crossword puzzle on the school's website.

"She took the SAT word program that we've had at Catonsville High School for years and she took a program called Eclipse ... and she used the program to make these self-checking crosswords," Rehmert said.

Students will now be able to practice their SAT words as part of a news link on the school's website, she said.

"I was speechless," Connelly said in an interview Wednesday. "I'm really excited, and I'm the second person to get this."

She said she got the idea for the program in the fall of 2012, shortly after beginning her high school career.

"We would do little crosswords in my web design class to help with our designing vocabulary and syntax," Connelly said. "So that we knew the terms."

She said they would also do an SAT word puzzle once a week.

"I thought, 'Hey, we could put it into a crossword and have everybody do it, not just our class,'" she said. "It doesn't take long to put it up on the website."

With the help of her friend, senior Jacob Lutz, they put their plan into action and is has been an integral part of the school's website since late fall.

"I'm really hoping to take this hopefully to the next level and do it in the elementary schools, middle schools, bring it all around Baltimore County to promote computer science," Connelly said.

"Men do a lot of computer science...but I also want to introduce women into computer programming and promote it and say this is a lot of fun," she said. "It really is a lot of fun."

That drive and desire to further the program is exactly what earned her the award, Rehmert said.

"We thought, man, she's a ninth grader, and no one asked her to do this," Rehmert said. "That's really just the kind of kid that she is. She's always looking for something new to do.

"For us at Catonsville it's just really nice for us to be able to recognize kids who go above and beyond," she said.

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