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Athletes, elementary kids join forces on academic game plan

The Baltimore Sun

Athletes at Howard High School are teaming up with youngsters at nearby Phelps Luck Elementary in a program that encourages academic excellence and self discipline.

The Athletes for Achievement program started in the fall, and educators are promoting its success.

"Wonderful relationships have developed between the high school students and the elementary school students," said organizer Nancy Ottey, who also is the head of the reading-recovery team at Phelps Luck. "We're just really pleased."

Phelps Luck students in need of academic assistance are identified by teachers and matched with Howard High athletes two times a month for one-on-one 45-minute reading sessions. Twenty-seven Phelps Luck students are participating in the program, Ottey said.

"Our students have been really motivated by it," Ottey said. "They are really excited."

Howard High coaches and athletes were enthusiastic about the program when approached with the idea, Ottey said.

"They [immediately] came on board," she said.

During the sessions, the Howard High students aid in the reading process and also help the Phelps Luck students write in their journals.

In addition, the athletes stress the importance of school work and how it relates to athletics.

Though Ottey said it's too early to see whether the program has improved the grades of the elementary students, she did say, "We've certainly seen a change in motivation."

'Extreme' helpers

Don't be surprised to see a few Marriotts Ridge High School students working hard on tonight's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, at 8 on WMAR-TV, Channel 2.

The students joined about 450 volunteers when crews for the ABC-TV show were filming in Port Deposit in October. The volunteers built a home, an indoor riding ring for disabled students and a refurbished barn for a Cecil County family.

The Marriotts Ridge group includes Kim Sanner, Cullen O'Brien, Lexi O'Brien, Amanda Grote and Katherine Chrosinski.

The volunteers worked with Clark Turner Signature Homes of Belcamp to complete the projects.

The hourlong show will be preceded with a locally produced "behind the scenes" highlights show, An Extreme Maryland Makeover, at 7 p.m.

Students on school board

The application process for the student member of the Howard County Board of Education has started, and the deadline for the position is Feb. 15.

Rising juniors and seniors are eligible.

Applicants are required to meet the school system's academic requirements for the position -- maintaining a 2.0 grade point average and not having any failing grades.

Hopefuls are also expected to have the support of their principal.

"We want to know that they can handle the demands of the position," said Roger Plunkett, the school system's business, community, government relations officer.

The applicants must participate in a system-wide election organized by the Howard County Association of Student Councils. Last year, 19,454 of the 24,375 eligible students in the school system voted in the election.

Six students applied for the position last year. The field was trimmed to three when half of the hopefuls backed out after learning more about the job requirements.

Plunkett has received inquiries this year.

"I'm expecting a [large] number of applicants," he said.

Interested students are encouraged to inquire with their school principal or contact Plunkett at 410-313-6610.

Partnership with China

What started as a trip to China two years ago for Long Reach High School administrators has turned into a growing partnership between the Columbia school and Beijing No. 22 High School.

On Jan. 28, a group of three educators and four sophomores from the Beijing school will arrive and spend the week living with Long Reach High School host families. The Chinese students will attend classes and shadow a Long Reach student. This is the second visit from Chinese students.

"It's certainly enriched the school," said Long Reach Assistant Principal Rose Friss, who with Principal Ed Evans visited China in 2006. "It has expanded our cultural base and knowledge. It has given us the opportunity to befriend people from China."

Friss said that the partnership has taught the students that language is the only thing that separates the two countries.

"People are basically the same wherever you are," she said.

Long Reach tried to match the visiting Chinese students with Long Reach students enrolled in Chinese language classes.

"We thought that would be an excellent way to practice their Chinese and to learn more with a direct connection from China," said Friss, who said she hopes that the pairs will keep in communication after the visit ends.

The delegation from China will enjoy a potluck dinner with the host families Jan. 28. On Jan. 30, Long Reach staff members will host a dinner for the three teachers from China. On Feb. 2, the delegation will tour Washington with the host families. The group will visit New York City on Feb. 3.

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