Being a relative newcomer to Carroll County didn't stop Mary Angela "Angie" Diehlmann from throwing a big party for every graduating senior in all five public high schools.
Volunteers and state and county officials honored Mrs. Diehlmann and more than 20 other Carroll County nominees in the "Maryland You Are Beautiful" award program yesterday at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor.
Colleagues and friends described her never-give-up attitude in starting "Project Graduation," a safe celebration for seniors held for the first time at the Four Seasons Sports Complex in June.
Exhilarated after her name was announced as the winner, Mrs. lTC Diehlmann laughed and said her perseverance came from having nothing to lose.
"I'm a volunteer and nobody can fire me," Mrs. Diehlmann said. "I can talk to anybody, and they can't shut me up and they can't fire me. What can I say?"
Mrs. Diehlmann moved to Westminster three years ago, after having lived in Charles County for several years.
She had started a similar party there for seniors.
The idea is to keep graduates off the roads and in a safe, festive environment, free of drugs and alcohol.
Mrs. Diehlmann started out selling her idea to the school board a year ago, and ended up going to county government and eventually getting the county's Department of Recreation and Parks to sponsor the event with support from local businesses.
Aside from bureaucratic considerations such as insurance, sponsorship and other details, Mrs. Diehlmann faced some opposition from parents who wanted their graduates to stay home for family parties. Mrs. Diehlmann set out to convince parents and students that the all-night party could be in addition to those parties, and that students could come later.
Donald Smith of the county recreation department said Mrs. Diehlmann not only got the party started but also saw to the details. Mr. Smith and volunteer Vickie Curtis nominated Mrs. Diehlmann for the award.
Admiration and affection for Mrs. Diehlmann were evident. Ms. Curtis was not the only one in the room who choked up as she praised Mrs. Diehlmann.
"You would think people pay her to do this," Ms. Curtis said. "She is a beacon of light. She has truly made a difference in the lives of children, and me."
Mrs. Diehlmann is married to Tom Diehlmann. They have six children.