WHEN Laura and Skip Waters wanted to honor their late son, Alex, they knew that they would have to choose a way that celebrates independence.
Alex, who died seven years ago today at the age of 17 from effects of muscular dystrophy, was determined to live as independently as possible, his mother said.
A lifelong resident of Harper's Choice, Alex attended Longfellow Elementary School, Harper's Choice Middle School and Centennial High School, using a wheelchair when he could no longer walk. As a teen-ager he rode the bus with friends to The Mall in Columbia, where he rode a freight elevator between levels, his mother recalled.
He helped change his high school's rule against students in wheelchairs conducting science lab experiments. And, as a sophomore, he convinced administrators to let him take psychology, a senior-level course, in case he didn't make it to his senior year.
Last year, Alex's parents founded the Alex Waters Sister City Scholarship Fund to provide financial assistance to students who want to participate in Columbia's Sister City Student Exchange Program. The program sends students and adults to Cergy-Pontoise, France, and Tres Cantos, Spain.
The exchange program "builds a spirit of independence in young people," Mrs. Waters said.
Now a "Cafe Continental" fund-raiser is planned from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 29 at Oakland, 5430 Vantage Point Road in Town Center. The event will feature French and Spanish appetizers, desserts and beverages, with music, art show, and silent auction.
Admission is $18 for adults and $10 for students, with all proceeds going to the scholarship fund.
For more information about the Continental Cafe or to make a donation, call Laurie Sears at 715-3162.
Two seniors from Wilde Lake High School at River Hill have been named semifinalists in the annual National Merit Scholarship Program, something achieved by about one-half of 1 percent of high school seniors.
Elaine Cheong, 16, was among Maryland's highest scorers on the qualifying test taken during the junior year. Her parents are Linh and Hau Cheong of Wilde Lake village.
Michelle Dvoskin, 17, is the other top-scoring Wilde Lake High student. She is the daughter of Sue Dvoskin of Harper's Choice.
About 15,000 high school seniors nationwide become semifinalists and can compete for Merit Scholarship awards worth $26 million.
The Columbia Assembly of the Society of Young Magicians has been meeting only since January, but it is part of an organization that dates back to 1906 and boasts Harry Houdini as a past president.
The new group for boys and girls ages 7 to 16 who are interested in magic is sponsored by the local chapter or "assembly" of the Society of American Magicians, a national organization that has been around 90 years.
Jim Conner, Wayne Miller and Tommy Ivey, all members of Columbia's adult assembly, started the group for young magic enthusiasts, said Mr. Conner, who has performed as "James the Feenominal" since retiring from a more conventional career in sales and marketing.
The youngsters' group meets the first Wednesday of each month at the Faulkner Ridge Center, 10598 Marble Faun Court in Wilde Lake. Due to the holiday last Wednesday, the group will meet today from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
About 16 boys and girls are members, Mr. Conner said, and parents are invited to stay during meetings. Membership is $15 for a year, and includes a monthly bulletin that includes tricks and other information.
For more information, call Jim Conner at 788-6454.
Honors for ushers
"Servants of God, Leading the Way" is the theme of the day Oct. 22 when St. John Baptist Church honors its adult, young adult and youth usher boards at the Interfaith Center in Wilde Lake.
Each Sunday for 24 years, the church's adult ushers have prepared the sanctuary and greeted congregants. The church added a young adult board two years ago, and this year a youth board was added, said spokeswoman Helen Fitzpatrick.
As the number of ushers has grown, so have their duties, adding outreach and service projects, Ms. Fitzpatrick said.
Patricia Speights is president of the adult ushers, Dionne Vauls presides over the young adults and Jocelyn Truitt is president of the youth board.
Barbara Miller and Ossie Clay are organizing the Oct. 22 events and invite the public to attend.
An 11:45 a.m. service will feature the Rev. David Durham of Mount Sinai Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. The Rev. Haywood Robinson of Calvary Baptist Church in Baltimore will speak at the 4 p.m. service.
Young scientists at Wilde Lake Middle School need a small refrigerator for several months. If you have one to lend, please call science teacher Shirley Alston at 313-6957.