Reservoir High School Celebrates Black History

Harriet Beckham LeeHarriet Beckham Lee is the Black Student Achievement Program (BSAP) liaison at Reservoir High School. Before joining Reservoir, she served River Hill and Marriotts Ridge high schools in her BSAP role. Here Lee blogs about Reservoir’s commitment to honoring black history throughout the school year.

Each year, Reservoir High School’s theme for the year is Black History 365, with a specific enrichment.  At Reservoir we believe black history is American history.  Therefore, all throughout the year we encourage our entire school body to participate and become engaged with school-wide cultural and ethnic events. This year, we are celebrating Black History 365: Believe.

To begin the 2016-2017 school year, a partnership began in October between Reservoir’s English Department and BSAP to encourage and support students to participate in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. essay-writing contest.  Throughout Dr. King’s historic speech “I Have a Dream” is the belief for a better community and a better world. Three students, Eugenie Choi, Yasmine Allen and Tiffany Hooker, participated in the contest and received good luck tokens from the school.

In November, students attended a BSAP college and career readiness trip to Howard University and Bowie State University, two historically black colleges and universities. This began with a preliminary assignment for the 60 students to research notable statistics about each school, such as retention, acceptance and graduation rates, and financial costs.

The college visit trip ended with the students completing a survey and signing on to attend Reservoir’s December REAL TALK, a collaboration between Student Services and BSAP. This program hosts alumni to return to provide students with REAL and courageous conversations about preparing for and attending college. There were 12 alumni who returned to share their suggestions and experiences.

All Reservoir clubs and organizations have been invited to share what they “Believe” with one another by participating in the “We Believe” poster expression showcase.  Posters were prepared in January and will be laminated and hung on the first floor bulletin board.  No doubt each club’s members had some soul-searching conversations while preparing them.

The band’s drum line players, under the direction of David Bacon, were showcased during Gator Break on Feb. 1, beating out tunes familiar to us all.

The Reservoir media center joined in the Black History Month salute by highlighting novels and other texts authored by or written about blacks. By being displayed, students are further encouraged to celebrate the heritage of African Americans.

On Feb. 15 during Gator Break, the Reservoir step team, under the direction of Marinda Williams, shared a melodic stepping rhythm that echoes “Belief” in oneself.

Freshman Stephan Khangaa introduced the video “Lift Every Voice and Sing, The Balm in Gilead” to the students during Gator Break on Feb. 22. “Lift Every Voice and Sing,”reverently referred to as the black national anthem, was originally written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) in commemoration of President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on Feb. 12, 1900.

Elder Earl Owens, chair of education for the Council of Elders of the Black Community of Howard County, was the featured speaker on Feb. 24 in the school’s media center.  Owens shared information about African-American integration in Howard County.

Reservoir’s school-wide assembly on Feb. 28 showcases our diverse student body while sharing the message that you should believe in yourself–in who you are and your dreams.  There will be individual performances, along with participating student classes and organizations including Jazz Band, Best Buddies, dance, Los Gators Latinos, African dancers, and video monologues by Alpha Achievers, Student Government Association, Delta Scholars, and Black/African Leadership Union.

The school-wide assembly features parts of the play “House of Mirrors,” written by Jacquelyne Jenkins originally for the HCPSS Summer Institute and co-directed with Lezlie Hatcher. In the play, a young black man (performed by Marcus Campbell), who was often in trouble in school and who didn’t take advantage of support from his teachers and friends, has a dream that his invention will change many lives. Ms. Jensen (performed by Stephannie Joseph) yearns to learn more about the product, and Nicole (performed by Taylor “Drew” Henry) is supportive of the main character in every way.

Then in March, Reservoir Scholars and BSAP will offer all students an opportunity to meet and begin preliminary discussions about what was happening in history during John F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidency.  The discussions will lay the groundwork for viewing the movie “Hidden Figures” on April 21 in the school’s auditorium.  Charlene Allen, coordinator of leadership development, and Shannon Keeny, facilitator of cultural proficiency, will lead follow up discussions in March and April.

African–American seniors will enjoy a time to reflect and catch up during their senior activity “The Best is Yet to Come” in May.  Seniors will receive their heritage stoles from Elder Towanda Brown as she provides them with words of wisdom during the event and performs a semi-traditional African donning ceremony.

There’s always a piece of black history happening at the Swamp!

GatorsReservoir Principal Patrick Saunderson commends Lee’s work, saying “Ms. Harriet Beckham Lee is an integral member of the Reservoir community, serving as a wonderful resource for students, colleagues and families. She is known for her wisdom, grace, dedication, calm demeanor and positive outlook. The programs she has created have greatly impacted our school and become part of the fabric, the tradition and the rich culture that is Reservoir. Ms. Lee is truly a treasure!”

Lee’s guest blog is part of HCPSS’ participation in celebrating Black History Month, this February.

How One Engineer was Empowered by Project Lead the Way

Zoë Ledbetter Zoë Ledbetter graduated from the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) in 2010 after completing four years in the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) program at Marriotts Ridge High School. Ledbetter received her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park and is currently working for Bechtel Corporation as a civil and structural engineer. Here she shares how PLTW made her ready for college and an engineering career.

“I can’t be an engineer–I’m not good at math or science.” If I had $1 for every time I’ve heard this, I could retire tomorrow.

But seriously, there is a big misconception about engineers, and the truth is there is no one “type” of person who becomes an engineer. While it is important that engineers have a solid background in math and science, the best engineers are people who use their communication skills, imagination, and analytical abilities to invent, design, and create things that make a difference in the world.

The problem is that most young people don’t know an engineer or even what engineers do. Before high school, I was one of those people. But during my high school orientation, a guest speaker told my class about a new opportunity–a program called Project Lead the Way (PLTW). It sounded like an exciting, hands-on program, so I decided to sign up for the first class, Introduction to Engineering Design. Little did I know, the PLTW program would completely change my plans for the future and my outlook on engineering as a profession.

Engineering is a foreign concept for most students, but PLTW takes obscure concepts (like physics, math, programming) and translates them into real world applications. My favorite PLTW class was Principles of Engineering–this class offered just the right combination of lectures and hands-on problem solving. Whether we were building a ping-pong ball launcher, programming a marble sorter, or beating a robot in a game of tic-tac-toe, my PLTW classes always kept me engaged, determined, and enthusiastic about engineering, even throughout my four years of college.

Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely times when I thought about changing majors, but I am happy I stuck with my choice. The freshman engineering drop-out rate at the university level is much higher than most subjects:  about 40 percent! I am not trying to scare any middle or high school students out there, but it’s important to understand why this rate is so high. Several factors could be at play here: either students are having trouble adjusting to the rigor of college-level classes, had a misconception of what engineering is or find they do not enjoy engineering after all.

The PLTW engineering program helped me overcome all three of these possible difficulties. The five PLTW classes I took were all college-level courses that required a fair amount of time outside the classroom and helped me acquire time management skills that were vital in college. While not all of my PLTW peers went on to major in engineering, the exposure to it at a young age helped them determine what type of career they didn’t want to have, which is just as important as figuring out what career you do want. Just having exposure to engineering and a basic knowledge of engineering principles boosted my confidence in entry-level college courses. Even when I was studying until 3 o’clock in the morning, or when I didn’t do very well on an exam, I always knew a degree in engineering was attainable.

Now, seven years after graduating from HCPSS, I have gotten the chance to work on several fascinating projects and start my career as an engineer. There is a good chance I would not be an engineer today if I had not been exposed to engineering in such an approachable environment that PLTW classes offered. If any young students out there are interested in making a difference in the world, PLTW is a great program that will show you how engineers change the world every day.

Project Lead the Way is one career academy in HCPSS’ Career and Technical Education (CTE) program. Ledbetter’s guest blog is part of HCPSS’ participation in celebrating CTE Month®, this February. To learn more about our CTE offerings, please watch the HCPSS Insight: Career and Technology Education.

CRES wordle

Honoring Black History this Month and Year-round

Lezlie T. HatcherLezlie T. Hatcher has worked in the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) for nearly 10 years, currently with the Black Student Achievement Program (BSAP) at Cradlerock Elementary School. Previously Hatcher was a drama instructor with HCPSS’ summer program. Here she blogs about Cradlerock’s Black History Month activities and the importance of cultivating respect throughout the year.

My goal for Black History Month is to get students interested in history, and to learn about the contributions of so many African Americans in the past and present to form this nation. Oh yes, there’s excitement knocking on Cradlerock’s door this month!

Here at Cradlerock, we are hosting a school-wide weekly wax museum where teachers and students pose as prominent African-American figures. Some of our 3rd, 4th and 5th grade teachers are also collaborating to bring about Cradlerock’s first interactive museum to their classrooms. In doing so, more students are able to play an active part in learning about a chosen figure and sharing that information when a button is pushed in the museum.

Our younger students are having “Share-a-Moment” with me and perhaps a few volunteers from the community. This block of time includes short stories bursting with valuable lessons, historical events and a rich history told by African-American authors.

A few of Cradlerock’s 3rd graders are participating in HCPSS’ Unheard Perspectives: Black History Month Expo for the first time this year. The expo enables elementary students to spend extra time uncovering findings on an African-American innovator through the performance-based program.

Finally, this month we are hosting our annual “Taste and See” cultural food fest for those with adventurous taste buds.

The wise saying “It takes a village” holds true on more than just raising children. For a nation to be great, it takes sincere respect for all groups. That process starts in homes and in schools: the first two places children’s minds are shaped.

Like many other citizens, African Americans are doing awesome things every day. That means that while we celebrate during the month of February, black history happens 365 days a year and that makes it American history.

Hatcher’s guest blog is part of HCPSS’ participation in celebrating Black History Month, this February.

Jonathan Taylor with his Personal Finance Challenge team.

Academy of Finance Changed My Life

Jonathan Taylor (above right) is a senior at Long Reach High School while enrolled in the Academy of Finance. He plans to study finance and business in college. Here, Taylor blogs about his Academy of Finance experiences and their impact on his future goals.

It was my first day at the Academy of Finance. As soon as I walked in the room, I saw the stock ticker in the back. After finding a seat, I started talking to the students around me. Some went to Atholton, some to Marriotts Ridge, but for this class we were all in the same room learning about topics that interested us.

We kicked off the year by talking about the Dow’s recent downturn and the S&P 500. I was somewhat confused, to say the least, but it didn’t matter. This was going to be a great class. About a month into the class, we started learning about financial literacy. I had learned quite a bit about financial literacy at home, and I half-expected to be covering things I already knew. What I didn’t expect was for us to be participating in a 3-month personal finance simulation.

Through the simulation, everyone had the same income, job and set of vendor options, but could choose which options to select. I had several different choices for my bank, credit card, cable television, cell phone, auto loan and even renter’s insurance. The goal was to pick the best options, so I could save as much money as possible. I had my fair share of mistakes and errors, but learned a lot not only about budgeting but about myself as a consumer. Most importantly though, the simulation felt real, like something I could apply to my own life.

Throughout my time at the academy, I’ve had similar experiences with economics, accounting, international business and even entrepreneurship. But perhaps the most significant experience for me was participating in the Personal Finance Challenge. After learning about the opportunity, I hit the books reading through all the financial literacy topics we had covered in class. Additionally, my team had the chance to study with John Hauserman, a certified financial planner that my Academy of Finance teacher connected us with. We learned about tax returns, annuities, retirement planning and estate planning, all with John Hauserman.

A few months later it was time for the state-level competition. After three rounds of testing and a quiz bowl, my team emerged as first in the state. Before I could register what was going on, we were being congratulated and told we’d represent Maryland at nationals in Kansas City in May. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, it was May, and I was flying out with my team for nationals. I felt prepared but also extremely nervous.

After the first round at nationals, I looked at the team leaderboard to see how we did. We didn’t even place. “Is there even a chance to win now?” I thought to myself. We had to place second overall to qualify for the quiz bowl and have a shot at victory. Two more rounds of testing later, and I looked at the leaderboard, nervous and excited. We had qualified for the quiz bowl.

During the quiz bowl, we faced off against the first place team as we were asked 30 questions about regulations, investing, financial calculations and other financial topics. Our teams were neck and neck the entire time; there didn’t seem to be a clear winning team. Finally, it was the final question. We were up a point. We buzzed in but got the question wrong. Then the other team buzzed in and got the question wrong, too. I looked at my team and made the realization: we just won the National Personal Finance Challenge. My team’s preparation through the Academy of Finance had paid off.

Apart from providing me with valuable, memorable experiences, the Academy of Finance has made a huge impact on my future goals and plans. Before the academy, I knew I liked working with math and money, but it was only through the Academy of Finance that I got to try finance out and confirm it was right for me.

With everything I have done in the academy, I feel prepared and confident for the real world, and look forward to studying finance and business more in college. The Academy of Finance has changed my life, and I believe it can do the same for anyone else who takes advantage of the opportunity.

The Academy of Finance is one career academy in HCPSS’ Career and Technical Education (CTE) program. Taylor’s guest blog is part of HCPSS’ participation in celebrating CTE Month®, this February.

Mia Mcllwain, 6th grade African American History Seminar Student

The Entrepreneurial Spirit of the Harlem Renaissance to Contemporary Times

Marcus Nicks

Marcus Nicks serves as the achievement liaison for the Black Student Achievement Program (BSAP) at Patuxent Valley Middle School. He is the program director and founder of the school’s Students of Success leadership group as well as a co-teacher for Patuxent Valley‘s African-American History Seminar. Here Nicks writes about his school’s efforts to encourage entrepreneurship during Black History Month this year.

Black entrepreneurship has always been the spirit of the African-American experience especially during the legendary time period of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s to the 1940s. The work ethic and determination through cultural expression and social change during this time period in American history serves as a model of extraordinary inspiration. At Patuxent Valley Middle School, we expose students to entrepreneurship opportunities and engage them in conversations on what makes entrepreneurship powerful. For Black History Month this year, our school will provide month-long experiences encouraging entrepreneurship while making the historical connection to the Harlem Renaissance time period.

The month of February will begin with a Black History Month kick-start celebration for students during their lunchtime. Students will be able to enjoy the smooth melodic music of the Harlem Renaissance while viewing a slideshow of influential African-American entrepreneurial pioneers. Over the course of the month, our students will start each day learning about significant achievements of African Americans in our “Who Am I” morning news segment. Parents can get involved by showing their appreciation for the staff by serving food at our Soul Food potluck feast during lunchtime.

When it comes to entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurial spirit, Howard County has much to offer its students. This will be the central focus of our Patuxent Valley Middle School Community-wide Black History Celebration, which is scheduled to take place on Friday, Feb. 24, from 6-8 p.m. This event will conclude the school’s Black History Month festivities. This will be an evening with a packed itinerary including student performances that pay tribute to the Harlem Renaissance, and a fashion show with local fashion designers and modeling agencies. There will be a gallery with local, black-owned businesses where people can network and make purchases. Author, speaker, educator and historian Dr. Deborah Newman Ham will serve as a featured speaker for the night, and we will conclude the celebration with a panel of prominent entrepreneurs from Howard County discussing the importance of entrepreneurship in contemporary times.

As a representative of BSAP, I take pride in being able to use my role here at Patuxent Valley Middle School as a platform to lead the way in representing the African-American experience in an uplifting and empowering way. All people regardless of race, ethnicity or color have been impacted and influenced by the illustrious accomplishments that African Americans have made through their undying entrepreneurial spirit. Awareness of the victories obtained throughout the African-American historical journey can instill pride, confidence and help to foster racial sensitivity. I appreciate the opportunity to work with school principal Rick Robb and African-American History Seminar co-teacher Monica Bickerton, along with the rest of our staff, because we all share the vision of embracing the rich history of African Americans of the past to give our students inspiration for the future.

Nicks’ guest blog is part of HCPSS’ participation in celebrating Black History Month, this February.