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Editorial: Thumbs up to a second chance, a retiree who isn't, a life well lived and convenience for voters

THUMBS UP: Fourteen young men took a significant step forward in their lives on Thursday when Silver Oak Academy in Keymar held its graduation ceremony. Silver Oak is a private, residential, all-boys facility contracted by the state for youth who have been in trouble with the law. And it has seen its share of controversy this year, as a few of the boys left the grounds of the facility and raised the ire of neighbors with their conduct. Obviously, that’s unacceptable and the school pledged to work on security measures. But, on balance, Silver Oak provides a tremendous service and opportunity.

Those who graduated on Thursday are headed to college or into the workforce or the military, and many didn’t believe that to be possible not so long ago. These are kids from backgrounds a long way from their peers in Carroll, both literally and figuratively. “It’s a second chance that I thought I never would have,” Jovan Roberts told us, after graduating following an eight-month stint at Silver Oak. “Coming from the place that I came from … I’m just proud of myself.” He should be, as should the 13 other graduates.

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THUMBS UP: Runnymede Elementary School physical education teacher Susan Routson retired at the end of the school year after nearly 40 years in education. If she had done nothing other than spending those decades in a daily pursuit of helping kids live a physically fit life, she would deserve to be celebrated. But Routson did much more. She founded and has overseen a walk to raise money for Carroll Food Sunday for the past 20 years. Over those two decades, the school’s fundraiser has brought in more than $177,000. Just this past year alone, they raised over $10,000. “People need food and it was something that [the kids] understood completely,” Routson told us. During her final week of work, Routson was recognized at a volunteers appreciation event at Runnymede and presented with a handmade quilt that incorporated all of the T-shirts from every walk from over the 20-year span. She was also honored with a proclamation from Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1. And, she learned that she’s going to be on the board for Carroll Food Sunday. So while she’s retiring from teaching, she’s not retiring from helping others.

THUMBS UP: The most important people to a community often are not elected or in possession of a lofty title, but rather the ones who are simply there every day, making things a little bit better in our lives. We lose too many of these people on a regular basis, and one such loss occurred on June 17, when Joan Orem died at age 64. She was a waitress at Baugher’s Restaurant in Westminster for more than 50 years. One customer called Baugher’s a family and Orem its matriarch. A part-owner of the restaurant called Orem a “Carroll County icon.” Orem knew her customers by name, and memorized most of their favorite drink and food orders. She never wrote anything down and even ordered for indecisive eaters. Those who knew her said she was beloved because she connected with people. It was no surprise when hundreds attended a two-hour reception for Orem after she fell ill and could no longer work. Our story about Orem’s life and career was the most-read article on our website this week, and nothing else was even close.

THUMBS UP: While the numbers weren’t overwhelming, having a second site for early voting in Carroll County seemed to help turnout. Nearly 5,000 voters went to the polls in Carroll during early voting this year for the Maryland gubernatorial primary, a 13 percent jump over the previous gubernatorial primary in 2014. Approximately 1,100 of them did so at the South Carroll Swim Club, the alternative spot to Westminster for early voting offered for the first time this year. South Carroll volunteers heard positive comments about the convenience the site offered to those living in that part of the county. “We got a lot of positive feedback,” provisional judge JoAnn Nicholls told us. “A lot of [early voters] said they didn’t take part in early voting because it was inconvenient before.” Election Day begins at 7 a.m. Tuesday, June 26, with polls closing at 8 p.m.

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