Samuel Owens, an eighth-grader at Cockeysville Middle School, recently won fourth place in the 2012 of Fred B. Benjamin Peace Writing Contest, which called upon school children across the state to write papers on issues related to themes of peace and social justice.

The contest was sponsored by the Anne Arundel Peace Action Education Fund, Benjamin Peace Foundation and Annapolis Friends Meeting.

Samuel will receive a cash prize of $100 and a certificate at an awards ceremony on Friday, Sept. 21, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis.

There were more than 75 entries statewide, according to Michael Keller, coordinator of contest.

"Sam was one of my best writers last year," said Mary Martino, language arts teacher at Cockeysville Middle School.

"This is Sam's second writing award this year," she said, noting that he was the junior division winner of the Baltimore Jewish Council's 2012 Yom Ha'Shoah Essay Contest for his essay: "Silence: A Lesson from the Holocaust."

"Sam is a hard worker and a talented young man," Martino said.

St. Joseph School in Cockeysville launched a new website — http://www.sjpmd.org — to kick off the new school year. The parish and school website utilizes a state-of-the-art system to make it easy to update and disseminate information to current and prospective parents.

The time and resources to design and implement the site were donated by parishioner and school parent Michael Crowley, of Baltimore Consulting, in Hunt Valley.

"Parents have a real need for current and quick access to school information. Weather notifications, athletic events, school gatherings, and interactions with school staff are all part of the academic experience, and the system being utilized should facilitate all of these," Crowley said.

The new site includes a flexible and user-friendly content management system, an interactive calendar, search features, detailed and targeted content and social media capabilities.

Terrance Golden, principal of St. Joseph School, expressed his gratitude to Crowley and the Baltimore Consulting firm, and said, "With the new system, it will be much easier for our staff members to update news and events, so busy parents can get all the information they need in a timely and efficient manner. Plus, it looks awesome, too."

For details, call 443-541-3354 or visit http://www.baltimoreconsulting.com.

Warren Elementary School welcomes the following new staff members: Kristine Foskey, kindergarten teacher; Beth Reighart, fifth-grade teacher; Sandy Rolph, instructional assistant; Maureen Nee, school nurse; and Cindy Maurophilipos, new school secretary.

Welcome aboard to everyone!

At its monthly awards dinner, the Timonium Optimist Club honored a Villa Maria School student as its Student of the Month for September.

Villa Maria School students cannot be identified by their full name, but the student, Heather B., accepted the award with Melissa Hamberg, clinical supervisor at the school who spoke at the dinner, highlighting Heather's achievements and progress.

Hamberg said Heather is a wonderful student academically and behaviorally. She has also demonstrated wonderful artistic abilities - this year, she was recognized by Jaffe and Company when that group asked Villa Maria school to provide artwork for its charity event.

Heather created pictures of Baltimore that were displayed during the charity event. In addition, she and her artwork were also recognized by the Maryland Department of Education and some of her art is still on display in the department's Special Education Office.

The Cockeysville Volunteer Fire Company will host a quarter auction on Friday, Oct. 19. Doors open at 6 p.m., with the auction beginning at 7 p.m. The cost is $5 for two paddles and $3 for individual paddles. Food will be available for sale. Bring quarters and bid on donated items by vendors such as Pampered Chef, Cookie Lee, Avon, Tastefully Simple and more. No bids higher than 75 cents. Contact Linda Scheide at 443-824-4608 for additional information.

Two September birthday shout outs to members of my family. The first one to my brother, Fred Brancati, and the second to my dear son-in-law, Steve Tonkin. All the best wishes for a many happy returns of the day to two very special men.

Be sure to contact me to share your own special occasions — birthdays, birth announcements, anniversaries and all those special events.

Holiday greetings to family and friends who are celebrating the Jewish High Holy Days this month as well.