Running Brook Elementary honors a volunteer


BRYANT WOODS resident Nancy Berla spent several years during the 1980s writing about parental involvement in schools.

When she retired a few years ago, she decided to put her ideas into practice by volunteering at her grandchildren's school, Running Brook Elementary.

The school's administrators consider her such as asset that they nominated her for a Daily Points of Light Award, a national honor that recognizes outstanding volunteers.

L Berla was featured on the Points of Light Web site April 30.

Students and staff honored her at a ceremony at the school last month.

Berla estimates that she spends about 30 hours a week at the school. "I love what I'm doing," she said.

When her four children were growing up, "parents were not expected to be involved in the school," Berla said.

In the 1980s, the family moved to Columbia. Berla went to work for the National Committee for Citizens in Education, a group that promoted parental involvement in schools.

Berla set up a national help line for parents, and began writing publications on parental involvement.

Many of the publications discussed research showing that students achieved more when parents were involved.

At Running Brook Elementary, Berla has written grant proposals for the FACTS (Families and Community Together with School) program.

She estimates that she has raised about $80,000 during the past four years.

The money has been used for workshops on skills for parents, family nights, a group for Spanish-speaking parents, a preschool program and a summer academic program.

But raising funds is only part of the story for Berla. "I work to create an awareness at all times that parents ought to be involved," she said.

She focuses on practical details that help parents participate in school activities, such as translating notices of events into Spanish and providing translators for parent-teacher conferences.

She arranges transportation to school events, and provides child care for younger siblings of students so parents can attend meetings and workshops.

"I think everyone wants parents to be more involved in education," Berla said. "But it takes effort day after day."

Students present 'Macbeth'

A group of 52 students from Clemens Crossing Elementary School performed "Macbeth" at the Children's Shakespeare Festival at the Folger Shakespeare Library on May 11.

Playing leading roles were fifth-graders Jillian Joseph as Macbeth and Alexis Downs as Lady Macbeth.

The production was directed by Assistant Principal C. Anthony Yount.

4 Music teacher Alice Zehrbach was music director.

A group of Zehrbach's students performed a Celtic dance during one of the breaks between plays. The dancers and actors wore ornate period costumes sewn by their parents.

The festival "really turns the students on to Shakespeare," said Zehrbach. During the performances, she added, "you could hear a pin drop. It was amazing."

Yount has been directing children's productions of Shakespeare for more than 20 years. "Drama is a great opportunity for kids to work together for a common goal," he noted.

He likes using Shakespeare's plays because they are universal. Yount writes roles for additional cast members into the plays he directs so more students can participate. He has also added songs and dances.

Clemens Crossing was one of several schools performing on the first day of the five-day elementary school event. The festival also includes weeks for middle school and high school performances.

Swimmers win medals

Four west Columbia residents participated in the Special Olympics Anne Arundel County Swim Meet at the Naval Academy.

They are members of the Special Olympics Howard County Aquatics Team.

Teams from seven counties participated. The winners will go on to the Special Olympics Maryland Summer Games next month.

Swansfield resident Kyle Archard won a gold medal as part of a team in the 100-meter freestyle relay. A team that included Nick Stewart of Longfellow took a gold for the 100-meter medley relay. In the 15-meter flotation race, Hickory Ridge resident Rosie Gallo took a gold medal, while Mia Luoma of Harper's Choice won a silver.

In the 25-meter flotation race -- in which swimmers wear safety vests -- Gallo won a silver medal, while Luoma took a bronze. The 22-member Howard County team captured 28 gold, 18 silver and eight bronze medals.

The same weekend, 25 Howard County athletes participated in the Anne Arundel Track and Field Competition, also at the Naval Academy. They won 27 gold medals and more than a dozen silver and bronze medals.

Hickory Ridge resident Lynn Richardson is co-head coach for track and field.

Pub Date: 5/20/98

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