Marriottsville/Sykesville/Woodstock: Talented students earn Musician of the Month honors at West Friendship Elementary

The band students at West Friendship Elementary School get a kick out of seeing their names in print and teacher Amy Syversen enjoys praising them for a job well done. This week, she would like to recognize the February Musicians of the Month: Joseph Biegel (percussion), Megan Blackman (clarinet), Madison Costigan (clarinet), Elisabeth Degenford (alto saxophone), Owen Reider (clarinet), and Hana Thamer (clarinet). Congratulations, everyone!

A growing number of West Friendship Elementary band students have also mastered their scales to become "Scale Stars."

Kudos go to:

Erin Ko (oboe; Chromatic, C major, F major, B flat major, E flat major, A flat major, G major, D major, and A major);

Sidney Parkent (bells; Chromatic, C major, F major, B flat major, E flat major, A flat major, and G major);

Emily Morton (flute; C major, F major, B flat major, E flat major, A flat major, and G major);

Tyler Brandt (tenor saxophone; C major and G major);

Elisabeth Degenford (alto saxophone; Chromatic);

Austin Cestone (trumpet; C major);

Su Min Kim (trombone; C major);

Allison Polinsky (trumpet; C major);

Caroline Underwood (trumpet; C major);

Jonathan Bitterli (tuba; B flat major);

and Jacob Coomber (alto saxophone; G major).

The end-of-school awards ceremony at Marriotts Ridge High School always showcases an impressive field of honor roll students, especially those who have earned straight 'A's throughout the year. Wouldn't it be great if those top-notch students could earn monetary compensation and real work experience using the academic skills in which they excel? Peer2Peer, a Maryland-based tutoring company, offers students that very opportunity.

So what is Peer2Peer? In 2003, Erik Kimel, then a 17 year-old student from Churchill High School in Montgomery County, founded the company on the premise that students can successfully teach their peers and relate to them in ways adults cannot. For instance, a peer tutor may have had the same class or teacher and can also understand the pressures a fellow student may feel.

Peer2Peer now offers its services in Howard and Montgomery counties and select counties in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, northern Virginia, North Carolina and in Washington, D.C.Although every high school in Howard County is represented, Peer2Peer currently seeks more tutors from Marriotts Ridge to pair with students in need of academic assistance. (The company tries to match compatible students from the same schools.)

Interested students in grades 10-12 or college can apply online at The company will perform an academic screening to identify those who are always "shining" and fall in the top 5 to 7 percent of their class. A local M.O.M. (Management Operational Mentor) will then interview the screened applicants to pinpoint those who are personable, friendly, and engaging. In Howard County, that M.O.M. is Melissa Barrett, a freelance college consultant and former guidance counselor who resides in Ellicott City and has two children attending local schools.

Barrett has held her position since July 2011 and, in that time, has worked hard to promote community outreach. Peer2Peer has offered free tutoring programs during local PTA meetings and donated free tutoring hours to Howard County schools as fundraising prizes.

The flip side of the company, of course, is that it is an effective resource for parents seeking academic help for their children. Peer2Peer tutors assist students grades K-12 in every academic subject, as well as athletics, extracurricular activities, study skills, test preparation, and college essay assistance.

To learn more about finding a Peer2Peer tutor, go to the company website listed above, or call Melissa at 443-636-0955.

More information is now available on the summer camps sponsored by the Marriotts Ridge High School Booster Club. The weekly camps begin May 21 (evenings only while school is still in session) and run through Aug. 10. Subjects include vocal music for students in middle and high school, a variety of sports for students in grades 1-8, allied sports for special needs students ages 9-21 and performance training for student athletes grades 7-12 or adults.

For more details or online registration, go to Each camp costs $140 by May 15 or $155 after that date, and all campers will receive a t-shirt or reversible practice jersey.

Every year, the Howard County Bird Club challenges local youth, ages 9-13, to study a favorite bird and replicate it as accurately as possible on paper. These drawings and paintings can be in any medium, such as graphite, oils, acrylics or pastels, but they cannot be larger than 11-by-14 inches.

Entries into the club's student art contest will be judged on realism and attention to detail. The first place winner will receive a one-year membership to the Howard County Bird Club, as well as a backpack containing a pair of Eagle Optic binoculars and a birding field guide. Previous backpack winners are not eligible to compete.

Mail entries to Kate Tufts, 2830 Duval Road, Woodbine, MD 21797, by May 31 and make sure to include the artist's name, age, phone number, email address, school, and name of bird. Go to for complete contest rules, or email with any questions.

The Howard County Master Gardeners will hold a series of three vegetable gardening classes at the University of Maryland extension office, 3300 North Ridge Road, Suite 240, in Ellicott City, Saturday, March 25. The classes are free and each will be followed by a question and answer breakout session.

Kent Phillips will begin the program at 10 a.m. with a lecture on "Starting Vegetable Transplants." He will teach about when to start broccoli, cauliflower, bok choi, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, and squash; what type of fluorescent lights to use; how to care for the plants indoors; and how to harden them off prior to planting in the garden.

At 11 a.m., Gloria Lambert will teach novices about "Vegetable Gardening for Beginners." Topics will include the best location for a garden, the best vegetables to grow in this area, how to perform a pH test on the soil and interpret the results, and how to tend the garden throughout the year.

Finally, at noon, Jerry Kissel will talk about "Integrated Pest Management." It can help reduce the pests and diseases commonly found in this area in a healthy and eco-friendly way.

Call the University of Maryland Extension — Howard County office at 410-313-2707 to register for any of these classes.

Author Twig George will visit the Howard County Conservancy Sunday, Feb. 26 at 4 p.m. to recount her stories of "Growing Up Wild with 173 Meadow and Woodland 'Pets.' " George is the daughter of Newbury award author Jean Craighead George, and her father, grandfather, and uncles were all biologists. She and her two brothers helped raise over 173 wild animals in their suburban home, and life sometimes took humorous, unexpected twists.

The program costs $10 per family by Thursday, Feb. 23 or $12 after that date. To register, call 410-465-8877, or go to The Conservancy is at 10520 Old Frederick Road (Route 99), between Woodstock Road and Bethany Lane.

One final reminder: St. Andrew's Episcopal Church will serve a tasty meal of stew tonight, Thursday, Feb. 23, from 6-8 p.m. All are welcome at this monthly community feast. The cost is $9 per person or $30 maximum per family, and kids younger than 5 eat for free. Proceeds will support People Who Need People, a network of western Howard County families that supports established charities for women and children. The church address is 2892 Route 97, in Glenwood.

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