How can the community recognize high school students for their many, varied skills? That is the question local Kiwanians took to the Carroll County public school system six years ago. As a result, the Spotlight on Youth event began.
Carroll County Public Schools and Carroll County Kiwanians will have their sixth annual Spotlight on Youth event from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 29 at Winters Mill High School.
Spotlight on Youth will include a juried art show, a chess tournament, a film festival, an edible art contest, a floral design contest, dance exhibitions, robotics demonstrations and instrumental selections.
"The day includes so many students who are very talented but don't necessarily get the notoriety that sports and other areas do," said Sherri-Le Bream, director of high schools in Carroll County. She said she formed a committee to work with the Kiwanis clubs on this event.
Arthur Riley, of the Westminster Kiwanis Club, represents that club and the Mount Airy Kiwanis Club on the event's committee. "Students with fine art or academic achievements don't always get the recognition they deserve," he said.
Manchester Valley High School junior Skylar Hull said she is excited about the Spotlight on Youth event. She put 31 hours into her 17-inch by 22-inch portrait of a cheetah created with colored pencils. Hull said she had just begun the portrait when she learned about the juried art show.
"I put in a lot of hours to get it finished in time," she said. "My art teacher [Stacey Saltzgiver] was there giving me advice all along the way. I couldn't have done it as well without her help."
Hull is excited about being a part of the art show. "It gives me a chance to see where I stand with other young artists my age and it lets me express my artistic ability to the rest of the county," she said.
The categories that art students could enter are painting, drawing, mixed media, sculpture and 2-D digital. Each high school could submit up to two pieces per category.
Each high school could also submit up to two entries into the film festival portion of Spotlight on Youth. There are three categories: broadcast journalism, short film, and animation/ experimental. The films will be shown in the auditorium throughout the morning, with dance exhibitions between the films.
The 11th Annual Carroll Academic Challenge will have a double-elimination tournament from 9 a.m. to noon, with the final round and the championship round to be held in the media center at about 11:30 a.m. Just like the television show "It's Academic," this contest tests student knowledge.
"The chess tournament is usually held in the morning in the media center. The academic challenge is held in classrooms, but the final challenge is then moved to the media center," Bream said. "One year the final game in chess was still going on while people were coming in for the academic challenge. Two students were sitting in chairs playing chess and we must have had 100 people file in for the final round of the academic challenge."
Bream said the crowd circled around the table and watched chess. "There was about five minutes of match play left. It got so quiet. When the one boy won the whole crowd cheered. It was so neat," she said. "Kids playing chess don't often get that kind of attention."
Bream said first through third place in the different categories receive medals provided by Carroll County Public Schools. In addition, the Kiwanis Clubs provide prize money, with first place getting a $50 prize and second place receiving $25. For all the first-prize winners, Kiwanis also gives a $150 donation to that student's school.
For the Carroll Academic Challenge, the winning group's school receives the prize money, Riley said.
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Besides the regular awards, Bream said, artwork will also have a People's Choice award. "Anyone that comes in can vote for their favorite piece and [the winning] student gets a gift certificate for supplies," she said.
Bream said exhibits and demonstrations -- like dance, music, robotics and displays of service projects -- are recognized by name at the awards ceremony. In addition, exhibits receive ribbons.
The event rotates among high schools within the county every two years. It's been at Westminster, Manchester Valley and Winters Mill. "We want to get it into all the county high schools," Riley said.
"The Kiwanis are all about service," Bream said, "so [last year] they suggested that each high school have at least one display board to display some of the service projects they have been doing throughout the year. So down our hallway we will have these display boards set up for people to see."
"As communities, it important to support our youth and help them develop into good citizens because there are so many temptations that can sidetrack good students," Riley said.
Riley said he enjoys working at the event and he reflected on past years. "A big thing that sticks in my mind," he said, "is the artistic ability that shows up and shines, including photography and sculpture. These kids are tremendously talented. The teachers do a great job in bringing that talent out, and the academic challenge teams are amazing to watch, to see these kids and what they know."
"This is an uplifting morning where you see kids and their talents and their interests," Bream said. "No one is making them do this. It is all voluntary, with no credit or grades. Let's all come see the positive things our youth are doing instead of having the skewed vision we sometimes get."