PARENTS HAD GOOD reason to smile Saturday morning as they watched Severn School's Class of 2000 parade across the Boone House lawn in their burgundy caps and gowns.
Among the 86 talented seniors, 70 percent have been accepted by their first-choice schools of higher learning, including Yale, Stanford, Vanderbilt and Georgetown universities, and the College of William and Mary.
Two who shone most brightly were co-valedictorians Jason Alonzo, son of Bernardino and Andrea Alonzo of Arnold, and Katie Johnson, daughter of Richard and Brenda Johnson of Annapolis.
As a 13-year-old, Jason posted the highest SAT score of anyone in Anne Arundel County. While still in middle school, he wrote a computer anti-virus program for Severn. For this accomplishment, he was featured in the children's magazine National Geographic World.
A National Merit Scholar and Maryland Distinguished Scholar competition finalist, Jason plans to attend MIT in the fall.
Katie earned at 4.0 grade point average while taking every advanced-placement course offered at Severn. She was named a College Board AP Scholar with Distinction, based on several exams. She also attained nearly perfect scores on her SATs. She will continue her studies this fall at the Johns Hopkins University.
Senior Bret Hays was also a National Merit Scholar finalist.
Senior Lindsey Mathwick will continue Severn's military connection (Severn was a prep school for boys for the Naval Academy when it opened in 1914) - not by accepting an appointment to the Naval Academy, but by attending Penn State University on a four-year NROTC scholarship.
Five graduates will play Division I athletics: Ron Staines at the University of North Carolina in lacrosse; Joe Salsich at Wake Forest University, football; Tara Slidell at the University of Delaware, lacrosse; Lauren Faust at Stanford University, water polo; and Sarah Schaffer at Yale, swimming.
Keynote speaker Paul Reed Smith, owner of Annapolis-based PRS Guitars, considered one of the finest guitar-makers in the nation, spoke on the benefits of aiming high in life to reach your goals.
Each year, Optimist International attracts thousands of participants to its worldwide oratory contest for middle and high school students. The contest, the longest-running program sponsored by Optimist, is designed to help teen-agers learn to speak in front of an audience. Each teen is required to speak for four to five minutes.
For 17 years, the Severna Park Optimist Club has sponsored a local version of the contest - the first step to qualifying for the Maryland-Delaware District competition.
First-place winners of the local contest were Cassy Cameron of Severna Park Middle School and Chris Gregg of Severn School. Second-place winners were Heather Dechene, Old Mill High School, and Alex White, Severna Park High. Third-place winners were Lindsey Biles and Brady Nolan, both from Severn School.
Each received a plaque and the chance to advance to the county level. District-level winners, one male and one female, will receive a $1,500 college scholarship.
As Severna Park Middle School was completing its academic year, young people in the music department competed in countywide music festivals.
Under the direction of Randy Norris, the school's concert band, specially assembled for the competition, received a superior rating at the county level, qualifying it to compete at the regional level in Williamsburg, Va.
In Williamsburg, the band received an overall score of 95 out of 100, winning first place in its division and overall first place for middle schools. The band also captured the Judges' Choice Award, the most prestigious.
At the choral festival, Severna Park's show choir took first place in the mixed choir division, and also won the Judges' Choice Award over all the choruses, including high schools from Kentucky, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Maryland.
Eighth-grade pianist Sarah Kidd, who accompanied the show choir, won the festival award for outstanding accompanist. Sarah is the daughter of Thomas and Catherine Kidd of Shipley's Choice.
The seventh/eighth grades mixed chorus and guys ensemble both took firsts in their divisions, and the mixed chorus also receiving the Judges' Choice award over middle schools from North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland.
Kerryanne Salisbury directs the middle school choruses.