Howard County students are proving that they excel in the kitchen as well as the classroom.
A five-member team of students who attend the Howard County Applications and Research Laboratory captured fifth place in the National ProStart Student Invitational in Charlotte, N.C., last weekend.
The team included: Crystal Rivera and Kevin Gonsales, seniors at Long Reach High School; Ryan Meliker, a junior at Centennial High School; Peter Gallagher, a senior at Wilde Lake High School; and Jason Cohen, a junior at River Hill High School.
Each member of the team received a $500 scholarship and a gift bag of culinary tools worth more than $300. These prizes were earned in addition to the thousands of dollars in scholarship money that the students earned when they won the state competition.
The cooking competition, which is considered one of the most prestigious in the nation for high school students, featured 34 teams from across the country.
Each team had an hour to create an appetizer or salad, an entree and a dessert.
Competitors were evaluated on taste, teamwork, food safety and sanitation.
"The level of competition is just amazing," said LaDeana Litchfield, director of work force development for the Maryland Hospitality Education Foundation. "It is a very, very tough competition."
The group from Howard County prepared lump crabmeat-stuffed ravioli and Maryland rockfish fingers with an edamame succotash served in a Dijon-scented marinara sauce; pork tenderloin with apple stuffing; and a cream-filled chocolate empanada.
The group was mentored by Marc Dixon, a chef from Cafe de Paris in Columbia.
"I don't think we had ever seen a group of young men and women work so effectively and as members of a team," Litchfield said. "They just did an outstanding job representing the state of Maryland, their individual schools, the Applications Research Laboratory and themselves."
This was the third time that a group from the Applications and Research Laboratory won the Maryland ProStart competition and went on to compete at the nationals.
For the past two weeks, Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin has made surprise visits to schools to announce the county system's employee-of-the-year honors.
Recipients included: Richard Malt, a social studies teacher at Marriotts Ridge High School, who won the First Year Educator Award; Kathy Hanks, the principal's secretary at Wilde Lake High School, who won the Office Professionals Award; Laura Weir of Fulton Elementary School, who won the Distinguished Assistant Award; and Stewart Custis, of West Friendship Elementary School, who won the Custodial and Grounds Service Award.
The award winners will be honored at the annual "In Honor of Excellence" celebration at 4:30 p.m. May 15 at Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School.
About 500 students gathered to gain insight into the school system's mentorship and research opportunities during the 15th High School Student Learning Conference.
The conference, held at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory's Kossiakoff Center near Laurel on April 20, featured 76 student presenters who recently completed research projects and mentorships. They showcased their work to the prospective students during the five-hour conference.
"[The presentations] gave the students in attendance an idea of what they could do," said Debbie Blum, the central office resource teacher for the Gifted-and-Talented Program.
Presenters shared their internship experiences on everything from clinical medicine to the humanities.
The 500 students who attended the presentation have expressed interest in participating in the GT independent research program or the GT intern mentor program.
Raven is thanked
Running Brook Elementary School's quarterly awards assembly turned into a star-studded event Monday when students were surprised by a visit by a Ravens player.
Gary Stills was honored by the school with a plaque for his fundraising efforts.
With Stills' help, the school has purchased a new rock-climbing wall for the gym. In addition, money has also been raised for the school's cultural arts program.
Stills, 32, an eight-year veteran of the NFL who has played for the Ravens since 2006, helped raise more than $4,300 for the school when he donated Ravens tickets and sports memorabilia to a raffle in January.