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Roland Park Country School students walk to raise money

Roland Park Country School graduate Jocelyn Young-Hyman, who is now a Peace Corps volunteer, has big plans for the money raised Thursday by her alma mater in its annual All-School Walk.

Young-Hyman, a 2007graduate of the all-girls school on Roland Avenue, is assigned to work at Kichakamkwaju School For The Deaf, in Kenya. On April 1, she emailed Roland Park Country School Upper School Head Ereni Malfa, asking for help in raising money for art supplies and academic games.

"My school is an extremely poor school with absolutely no resources or parents who can support their children," she wrote. "We also don't have enough teachers to handle each grade, so I teach (kindergarten, first and second grades) all at once, all subjects. In my classroom, I have five kids, two with multiple cognitive disabilities, one who is 14 and just started school this year, and two who are in grades 1 and 2. Each child needs one-on-one help because they each have different academic and skill levels, but because it is only me, it's a bit tough."

The request was serendipitous for Roland Park Country School, a girls' school, which holds the walk to raise money for a different cause each year, from breast cancer research and guide dogs for the blind to renovations for the Roland Park fire station and library.

The less than 1-mile walk is designed not only for philanthropic purposes, but to give students at all grade levels a chance to bond with one another and for older students to learn leadership skills in working with younger students, school officials said.

"Everybody walks," said Head of School Jean Waller Brune. "It's more symbolic. We're walking for something bigger than ourselves."

Each student donates $1 to $5 for the walk, and in exchange is excused from wearing their school uniforms for the day. At the end of the walk, each student gets an apple donated by Giant Food, "because it's healthy," Brune said.

"And they're hungry when they come back," said school spokeswoman Nancy Mugele.

Shortly after 10:30 a.m. on a drizzly Thursday morning, the school's 675 students gathered with 170 employees on the campus to walk up Roland Avenue and around St. Mary's Seminary. This year's walk was officially dedicated to the school in Kenya, Mugele said.

Many seniors walked with preschoolers, including a group of seniors and pre-first-graders, who performed an original dance called "Five Again" that the school choreographed and has staged several times this year.

Older students were glad to pal around with younger students.

"It's surprising to find how much similarities you have with someone younger than you," said student government president Martha Isaacs, a senior from Butler in Baltimore County.

Senior class president DaeShaun Miller, of Towson, held hands with Violet Peters, 6, of north Baltimore.

"You really get to make that connection with someone," said Miller, who walked with a senior in the All-School Walk when she was a preschooler.

"She gave me a piggyback ride, I remember," Miller said.

Now, it was Miller mentoring a youngster.

"Today, we talked about our favorite colors," Miller said.

"Pink!" said Violet.

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