Capital Gazette wins special Pulitzer Prize citation for coverage of newsroom shooting that killed five

Waxing philosophical as the finances wane


"THE JOURNEY is the event."

That's how a wise Howard County mother puts it as she awaits her daughter's Centennial High School commencement this evening at Columbia's Merriweather Post Pavilion.

The journey is the culmination of 18 years of preparation and a lot of prayer, so the mother looks on the final flurry of costs philosophically. This fall, after all, she'll be an empty-nester. Time to start saving for the college graduations of the daughter and her older brother.

And never mind the expenses: the prom dress, the flowers, the dinner before the dance, the prom tickets, the limo, the $22 paper graduation gown, the Memorial Day reception at the house. In all, it's an arm and two legs for the journey's end. (This sensible child has chosen a few days of culture in New York over a week of underage drinking in Ocean City.)

Fran Eisenhart, general manager of A Better Limo, which is running 17 gleaming babies almost every evening through the graduation season, says "prom moms" often discover that graduation expenses surpass those of their own weddings.

So far, it's been a safe and sane graduation season, though there's one sour note for the Ellicott City mom: The inability of schools to control drinking has forced some, Centennial included, to cancel all-night graduation parties. She thinks it's a case of a couple of bad apples spoiling the barrel.

Lengthy Western Maryland ceremony profits professor

Western Maryland College is among those colleges that have learned the hard way not to schedule outdoor graduation exercises, given Maryland's unpredictable May weather.

Good thing, too. Western Maryland's ceremony last Saturday, lasting 4 hours, 39 minutes and 23 seconds, might well have been washed out had it not been held in the college's Gill Center.

The commencement this year was the second longest at Western Maryland since 1987. We know the precise length of the exercise because the faculty of the Westminster college has wagered on the length of commencement since 1975 and has kept records since 1987.

This year's winner, biology professor Sam Alspach, placed his wager on 4:39:00. Off by only 23 seconds, he won $31.

School officials said it was coincidence that Dave Herlocker, the timekeeper, also is a science professor.

Symposium for families of hearing-impaired kids

When parents first learn that a baby has hearing trouble, "it's almost always a difficult time," says Ilene Briskin, associate director of the Hearing and Speech Agency, a nonprofit organization dedicated to meeting the speech, language and hearing needs of Marylanders.

"They have to learn so many things so quickly," says Briskin of the caretakers of deaf children. Technology has made possible therapies only dreamed of years ago, she says, but many parents don't know of them or how to get reliable information.

As part of the agency's 75th anniversary celebration, Loyola College and the Miriam Zadek Family Education Program will sponsor a free symposium this evening for professionals in the field and families and guardians of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. The symposium begins at 6 p.m. at Loyola's graduate center in Timonium.

Zadek, a retired social worker and employee of the agency, grew up in New York City with deaf older and younger sisters.

"Deafness had a profound effect on my family," says Zadek, "and given that background, this symposium is simply an effort to get professionals and parents on the same page."

Seven state schools win Blue Ribbon distinction

Seven Maryland public schools, including two in Anne Arundel County, have been named National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education.

Winners will pick up their awards in Washington this fall. They are Benfield and Bodkin elementaries in Arundel, Spring Garden Elementary in Carroll, Charlestown Elementary in Cecil, Darnestown Elementary in Montgomery, Fort Foote Elementary in Prince George's and Ocean City Elementary in Worcester.

K-5 private, parochial school scholarships to be awarded

Two years ago, when the Children's Scholarship Fund of Baltimore sought applications for 400 privately financed scholarships to area private and parochial schools, parents of more than 20,000 children applied. Officials were astounded - with almost no publicity, Baltimore had one of the nation's highest application rates.

Now the fund has announced new three-year scholarships to be awarded to children entering kindergarten through fifth grade this fall.

The expansion will cost $3 million, two-thirds to be raised locally and $1 million to come from the national fund, established in 1998 by financier Ted Forstmann and Wal-Mart founding family member John Walton.

Fund officials have been careful to distinguish their "school choice" voluntary scholarship program from President Bush's school voucher program.

Suzanna Duvall, head of the fund's Baltimore program, said scholarship expansion "will depend on support from the grass roots," beyond the handful of corporations and major foundations that provided most of the funds two years ago.

Correction: commencement wasn't as long as it seemedJenifer Sirkis, a journalism minor and co-editor-in-chief of the Western Maryland College student newspaper, writes to upbraid me for an error in last Wednesday's column. I said the Western Maryland commencement May 26 lasted four hours, 39 minutes and 23 seconds.Wrong, says Sirkis, who was one of the graduates and looked at her watch. The ceremony ended at 4:39:23, meaning its length was 2:39:23. That's a lot less wind. I apologize.
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