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Editorial: Thumbs up to meaningful conversations, an inclusive camp and a revamped wedding room

THUMBS UP: An important discussion took place in Westminster last week. Theodore Johnson, a senior fellow at Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law as well as a retired Navy Commander who believes this country has a problem with racial inequality but also loves this country, delivered the keynote address at the 27th annual Carroll Citizens for Racial Equality Conference. The conference, which took place at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, was titled “Respect, Racism and Patriotism: Talking about taking a knee.” Johnson recalled the conversations he had when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem, right before Johnson was to retire from the military. “I am asked by black friends, how can you serve? And I am asked by white friends, isn’t this so disrespectful,” Johnson said. “And I tell them both, you’re both right.” Erin Snell, the St. Paul’s minister of social justice and one of the Carroll Citizens for Racial Equality chairs for the conference, said the idea behind it is to learn how to have meaningful conversations around topics that can be uncomfortable to talk about. But for the the people who had come to the conference, having those sometimes uncomfortable conversations as is why they came out. “The paradox is part of the beauty. We can appreciate the beauty without ignoring the ugly,” Johnson said. “That’s the story of America.”

THUMBS UP: A day at camp that is fun, educational and truly open to everyone? Sounds like a great idea. Sounds like Camp Winfield. For about 350 students last week, the courtyard at Winfield Elementary School transformed into Camp Winfield, a place where they could read around the “campfire,” go fishing and hang out in tents. The camp is in its third year, and the activities are designed so that students in special education and general education can all participate. The morning starts out with just students from the autism and LFI program exploring the camping-themed educational activities. In the afternoon, first-grade and kindergarten classrooms took turns coming out to the camp. Jamie Mutolo, a speech-language pathologist, led the school through the weeks of planning for the event. Many of the activities have connections to classroom curriculum. At one station, students sifted through colored rice to find plastic caterpillars and butterflies, and matched them to charts about the life cycle of butterflies. At the campfire station, where students read “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” they used story sequence skills from the classroom. Students in the special education classroom have been learning camping vocabulary for the past few weeks. Visuals at each of the stations made them accessible to students who communicate using Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display (PODD) books and devices. Said special education teacher Tina Baker: “It’s such an inclusive environment.”

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THUMBS UP: On Monday, Kirk and Bianca Crawford became the first couple to be wed in the new marriage room at the Circuit Court for Carroll County. They were married in a short, traditional ceremony under an archway decorated with blue flowers and soft twinkling lights. Just before they began the ceremony, Clerk of the Circuit Court Heather DeWees told the couple, “This is our pride and joy. And you’re the very first.” DeWees officiated the marriage, and was also part of the committee that moved the marriage area to a different room in the courthouse and decorated it with a rustic barn wedding theme. Barn weddings are popular, and it’s a good way to give the room a Carroll County character that matches the agricultural heritage of the area, members of the committee said. The old room was smaller, and the walls were a plain off-white. The person officiating the wedding would stand behind a metal music stand. “It’s neat to see the transformation of the room,” Robin Crouse, senior land records & licensing clerk, told us. In 2018, there were 341 civil marriage ceremonies officiated at the Carroll County Circuit Courthouse. Any couple that gets married in Carroll County, regardless of venue, pays $35 for a marriage license application. The cost to have the ceremony at the courthouse is $25. And now it can take place in a more appropriate setting for two people to begin their lives together.

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