Catonsville High School senior Kevin Ward was caught off guard Tuesday morning.
He wasn't expecting to see his parents, teachers, school principal Bill Heiser and assistant principal Eric Eiswert when he walked into the room
The group had gathered in the school's library to present Ward with the Comet Leadership Award for his work in envisioning, planning and executing a "math night" program for students from feeder schools to the high school, Catonsville Middle and Arbutus Middle schools.
"This is very surprising," Ward said after receiving the award."I had no idea — it's exciting."
Ward, secretary of the Math Honor Society at the school, came up with the idea to show math in a fun way to middle school students through various activities. The night featured 11 math games that were created using math concepts such as factoring and exponents
He said the planning began in November for the March event and led bi-weekly meetings with students in the Math Honor Society.
Ward oversaw a planning committee of 12 students from the honor society that organized the activities and the event, said Deborah Stephens, who nominated him for the award.
"At the beginning of the year, Kevin said he wanted to have a math night for younger students to show them that math isn't just for nerds," said Stephens, a math teacher and co-advisor for the school's Math Honor Society.
His teachers thought the event was such a good idea, they plan to continue it next year.
Mary Anne Llorin, a math teacher and co-advisor of the Math Honor Society, said she was struck by Ward's leadership organizing the event.
"I was really impressed with him taking the lead on this. He came up with the suggestion for math night and we just kept looking to him about this event," Llorin said. "He responded as a leader — he's dependable, you can rely on him and he thought of ideas other students didn't think about."
Heiser said he expects Ward to go on to do great things as a freshman at University of Maryland, College Park next year, where he will be an engineering major.
"What's great about Kevin is he's a shining example for younger students to look up to," Heiser said.
In addition to Math Honor Society, Ward is a member of the school's Student Sharing program, a Comet Senior Leader, captain of the cross-country team and a member of National Honor Society.
He lives in Catonsville with his parents, Jenny and Tom Ward, who were present at the ceremony, and his brothers, Joe, 14, who attends Arbutus Middle, and Nick, 20.
When his mother heard her son won the award, she was, "excited for him because he works really hard."
The Comet Leadership Award was created last year to recognize students who, "go above and beyond," and as a way for the school to "promote the positive," said Tracy Rehmert, school-to-career coordinator at Catonsville High.
The award was created under an umbrella program that seeks to recognize students for excellence. Under that umbrella is the Comet Culture Program, in which juniors nominated by a teacher, are trained to give character lessons to other students, discussing topics such as respect and school values, Rehmert said.
Kevin is one of the 120 student leaders who are part of the program, Rehmert said.
Other facets of the umbrella program include "Be Your Best," in which reward tickets are given to students for doing good deeds and the "Comet Scholar Award," which is given to students once a month who perform well academically and are nominated by their teachers, Rehmert said.
"Over the past couple of years, we really have tried to bolster and incentivize the students to do the very best they can," Rehmert said. "It's happening here anyway so we want to recognize it...because if we can teach them the right things to do in high school, they can become the productive leaders of tomorrow."
Ward was the fourth student to receive the Comet Leadership Award.
The first award went to Hannah Lane and Rachel Albert for their efforts in creating and fostering a ballroom dancing club. Emma Connelly won the second for creating and an online crossword puzzle that helped students study for the SAT exam.
The third award went to Ryan Konig in December for his film of school spirit week that publicized the school, Rehmert said.