OMHS new classroom

April is Mathematics Awareness Month

Jon WrayJonathan (Jon) Wray is the secondary mathematics instructional facilitator for the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS), and an author, consultant and national speaker on mathematics teaching and learning. He is immediate past president of the Association of Maryland Mathematics Teacher Educators, past president of the Maryland Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and recently served as an elected member of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Board of Directors. For Mathematics Awareness Month, Wray shares how families can support their student’s understanding of mathematics, an ever increasingly important skill in today’s world.

As a parent of four children, with one each in elementary, middle, high and graduate school, there are times when I find it hard to keep up with what they are learning in all of their many classes. Occasionally my anxiety level rises when they come to me with questions related to challenging assignments. Will I be able to recall the concepts from my schooling and be able to provide meaningful assistance? Do the assignments include content that has evolved as a result of new developments in teaching, learning, curriculum and/or assessment? Most of all, will they view me as a “failure” if I cannot help them?

The subject of mathematics provides no exception during these anxious moments, as I am often reminded of how the content in and across courses/grade levels is a moving target. Once children develop a new or deepened understanding of a topic, there is always more waiting to be explored. Few would disagree that mathematics is part of everyday life. However, we now know more about the critical impact of mastering mathematics concepts at an early age on a student’s academic success later in life. According to Greg Duncan, a researcher at Northwestern University, “Mastery of early math skills predicts not only future math achievement, it also predicts future reading achievement.” For many, that’s a pretty heavy dose of (new) reality to swallow.

When my children come to me with questions, I’ve learned to avoid doing the mathematics for them (reflecting on the fact that watching me ride a bike did very little for helping them learn to ride on their own). Instead I pose the following questions (which I find helps them work productively through their struggles and avoid major frustrations): What do you already know about this problem? Can you show me the method(s) you have used (so far) to complete the problem? What have you discovered? How did you find that out? Have you found another way that could be done? Does your answer make sense to you–why or why not? What might be your next step? The thinking revealed through these conversations often point my children in a productive direction and limit the need for me to “take over” or reteach.

HCPSS firmly believes that families are a critical centerpiece for student success in mathematics, as parents and guardians are children’s first and most important teachers. That’s why about two years ago, at three HCPSS community workshops, we asked parents/guardians about their needs related to supporting their own children with mathematics learning. Their response was clear and focused on the need to help families:

  • gain a better understanding of their child’s math program;
  • refresh or build a deeper understanding of math concepts, skills and practices; and
  • provide additional support and practice opportunities for students, including free online homework help, as needed, throughout the school year.

Within a few months, the school system released the online Family Math Support Center (FMSC). The FMSC provides students and their families with details related to mathematics course content, background information on “unfamiliar” concepts and practices, free homework help in partnership with the Howard County Library System, targeted practice opportunities, the latest information related to testing and understanding student results, videos about what students should know and be able to do in each K-12 mathematics course, and much more. In the short time since its establishment, the FMSC has received well over 500,000 visits.

A recent addition to the HCPSS FMSC is a series of short videos that describe recent shifts in mathematics instruction, as well as ways to support children with mathematics homework.

As Mathematics Awareness Month is observed in April, we pause to recognize the need for all students to study mathematics, as society has become increasingly dependent on the application of mathematical reasoning, problem solving, communication, connections and the strategic use of different representations (e.g., numbers, words, pictures, objects, tables, graphs, and other tools and technology). As a community, it is critical that we view mathematics in a positive light, and as an important discipline for our students to learn and use on a daily basis. When our children come to us with questions related to their struggles in mathematics, consider posing some of the above questions to help them work productively through problems while helping develop their problem solving, reasoning and communication skills.

I hope you find these resources helpful and invite you to contact me with any suggestions for enhancing the Family Math Support Center. Happy Mathematics Awareness Month!

Addressing Fake News

Mark StoutMark J. Stout serves as coordinator of Advanced Placement & Secondary Social Studies for the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS). He holds a Ph.D. and M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Maryland, College Park. He began his career as a middle school social studies teacher, and has worked as a resource teacher for social studies and as a facilitator for professional development. Here Stout blogs about the social studies teacher’s role in empowering students with strategic reading skills to determine credibility.  

“Some 82% of middle-schoolers couldn’t distinguish between an ad labeled ‘sponsored content’ and a real news story on a website, according to a Stanford University study of 7,804 students from middle school through college.”
— The Wall Street Journal, 2017

In this era of the 24-hour news cycle and the spread of information through social media, students are inundated with data. As evidenced by the quote from the Stanford study, many have difficulty determining which news sources are reliable. I am often asked to comment on how teachers help their students discern between fact and opinion when so much information is available. In this new era of “fake news” that has attracted the attention of so many Americans, social studies teachers work very purposefully to help students understand how to determine reliability and bias.

Our nation is built upon the notion that citizens should have opportunities for the free exchange of ideas. This was important to the framers of our Constitution, who considered a free press essential to our democracy. In an age where individuals consume media increasingly linked to their interests, it becomes easy to accept what they read as the truth. Whether it is the news programs they watch, the forwarded links from family and friends, or their social media feeds, we need to help our students dissect fact from opinion by questioning everything they hear, see or read.

Howard County social studies teachers are trained to teach students how to read text critically through historical reading and thinking skills. Instructional methods focus on developing deep historical understanding through the interpretation and analysis of the past using complex primary and secondary source documents. HCPSS curriculum is informed by two Teaching American History Grant Programs with the Center for History Education at University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), which built on work from the Stanford History Education Group to promote historical thinking.

The first step in this process involves what historians term “sourcing” the documents. Here, students ask questions such as: Who wrote this? When was this written? Why was it written? What type of source might this be (journal entry, letter, legal document, news article, etc.)? What is the author’s point of view? Is this source reliable? Does the author have anything to gain or lose?

Next, students conduct what is termed “close” or “critical” reading. In this stage, students determine what claims the author is making, if there is substantial evidence to support these claims and if the author is attempting to influence the reader through the use of language. After determining the authenticity of the sources, students then begin to look for other pieces of evidence to support the author’s claims. They can ask: Are there conflicting versions of the story? Which versions are more believable and why? By seeking multiple sources, students can make more reasoned decisions about what explanation is plausible.

In the final stage of the historical reading process, students learn to establish the historical context of the sources. This is perhaps the most challenging, as they need to see the story or event through the eyes of the people who lived in that time period. They can ask: What else was going on when this was written that might have influenced the author? What was different back then, and what was the same? Understanding context is critical to evaluating any account, whether in the past or the present.

Determining credibility is an acquired skill that can be applied through these processes of historical reading and thinking. Integrating the skills of reading like historians is now an expectation across social studies courses in HCPSS. It is imperative that students in our history and social studies classrooms understand these skills, so they can fulfill their roles as informed citizens.


My Life as a Teacher

Pat GordonPatricia S. Gordon, an educator originally from New York City, served on the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) Board of Education from 2000-2010. In honor of Women’s History Month, Gordon blogs about her family’s history in the education field as well as career possibilities for today’s girls.

I come from a family of educators. My mother’s father was for years the only teacher in the “colored school” in the small town of Troupe, Texas. He was known throughout the community as “Professor Hamilton.” Born before the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation rescued him from slavery when he was in his teens. He was fortunate enough to attend college in Kentucky and get a lifelong job as a result. One of my proudest possessions is a group picture of his school, students from kindergarten through high school. He and my grandmother had nine children, and he taught them all. One by one, as the girls finished his school, they went off to college and became teachers. My mother taught home economics in Dallas, Texas before she and my father married. She was a wonderful, creative seamstress, making not only my clothes, but my three brothers’ suits as well.

When I graduated from Hunter College in New York City, the career options for women were very few. It is probably strange for you to hear that for the most part, the two professional careers most available to women were teaching and nursing.  Other careers were male dominated to the point that even thinking about law or medicine for women was actively discouraged. Now, in 2017, there is no profession to which a woman cannot aspire.

I wanted another career, to be different from my teacher and nurse relatives. So for the first few years after college, I was first an investigator for the Department of Welfare, and then a probation officer in the New York City court system. Both jobs were interesting and educating. I learned to be tolerant and accepting of most people, and that most people can benefit and learn when offered help and given the chance to move past bad experiences. I also learned that not all people can be turned around, but we all must keep on trying.

I finally decided to become a teacher, and that finally was and is my lifelong career and how I define myself: as a teacher. My first class was a challenge. I had to develop my own style of teaching that would make me comfortable in my role, and would make the children comfortable as my students. The greatest challenge was discipline. By my second year in the classroom I had developed my own effective style – firm but fair. My entire teaching and administrative career took place in schools with an economically disadvantaged student body. I learned to be pleased with student advances in learning that, though minimal, in most cases exceeded the progress the students had made in previous years. The advantage of being an elementary school teacher is the students are yours every day for the entire school year, and one can develop a relationship with each individual child. After six years in the classroom, I became a guidance counselor. For the last 16 years of my career, I was a principal.

For my entire career, I enjoyed my work. Not that every day was uniformly pleasant, but on the whole, it was stimulating, intellectually and socially. Children can be great companions. I have had some engaging conversations. I strongly recommend teaching for curious, intellectual “people” people.


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.

Passport to the Future event

How I Found My Post-Graduation Way

CRD alumna Jamie Dorsey Jamie Dorsey is a Long Reach High School class of 2006 alumna who started working for a local community bank two weeks prior to graduation. Dorsey started her career as a teller and quickly grew into a sales role and management. Here Dorsey blogs about how participating in the Career Research And Development Academy helped her get #LifeReady and her first job.

Once a student reaches high school, the big question is: What are you doing after graduation? Are you going to college? What college? I always knew that I wanted to do something in an office or financial services, but honestly I didn’t know what I wanted to do or how I was going to achieve this goal.

I had a friend who was taking the Career Research And Development Academy (CRD) our sophomore year, and I would often meet her before or after class. During these interactions I got to know the CRD teacher and learn about the CRD program. My friend and the teacher encouraged me to take CRD to assist me in deciding on what I wanted to do post-graduation. I immediately decided to take CRD and was so very happy and thankful I did.

CRD gave me more than just a credit toward my high school diploma. CRD taught me professionalism, how to dress appropriately for an interview or a job, how to write a resume and cover letter, and introduced me to several different industries by having guest speakers present and talk with the class. CRD also taught life skills: how to balance a checkbook, and how to track and manage personal expenses, household expenses, car payments, rates and much more. CRD gave students the opportunities to complete a work study program for the CRD III class. I took the opportunity from a self-sourced lead to complete a paid internship at a local insurance agent’s office. The on-the-job training allowed me to apply the skills I learned in CRD and apply it to my internship position.

CRD provided mock interviews with career professionals in different industries. This was huge to any student. We learned about various industries, and found industries we didn’t think about that would interest us, and more. As you could guess I was paired with a manager of a bank. This initial CRD interview opened up the opportunity for me to officially apply to an entry level position within a banking organization. I was excited, nervous and wanted this more than anything.

As I was sitting in the lobby for my first professional interview, I recall thinking back to all that I learned in CRD and making sure I applied it in this interview. Afterwards I remember leaving and thinking, “Wow that went really, really well. I am so glad I had CRD to teach and guide me in what I would face in the real world.”


In about two years with the company, I grew to a customer service sales position and then quickly into management. I was able to always refer back to my CRD class and apply it to advancing my career and my management skills.

While working full time, I went back to school to acquire my bachelor’s degree in business management. It wasn’t easy, but CRD gave me the tools, training and knowledge to know what I needed to figure out, what I wanted to do and how to balance a career while obtaining a degree. I quickly went from a high school student to a professional, networking with individuals twice my age.

I recommend CRD to any and all students as a foundation to assist them in getting direction, learning more about themselves, as well as getting out in the community to meet professionals.

I now volunteer mentoring Howard County CRD students. I share my story to encourage them to never give up, and to use CRD as a foundation and a tool to help them decide what they want to do post-high school graduation. CRD can help students obtain jobs for work study and explore college opportunities, and more.

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

Rachel Lin at college

Recent Grad Offers Glimpse Into College Life

Rachel LinRachel Lin served as the Student Member of the Board of Education (SMOB) last school year when she was a Howard High School senior. As a product of the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS), Lin took with her the work ethic and confidence necessary to thrive in college. She is now a freshman at the University of California, Berkeley and intends to double major in political science and business. Here she shares how HCPSS prepared her for college and describes some of her early experiences.

One year ago I was sitting in my home in Ellicott City, Maryland writing a post for Dr. Foose’s blog about being elected as the Student Member of the Board of Education (SMOB) and my ideas for the future of Howard County students. Today, I am sitting in my dorm room in Berkeley, California writing a post for Dr. Foose’s blog about my college experiences at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley).

Flying across the country to attend college was something I was nervous about. I didn’t have restless nights about choosing a college, but I did cry in my guidance counselor’s office the day college decisions needed to be made because I didn’t know what choice to make. I was scared to attend a school so far away from my lifelong childhood home because I knew I would have to be independent coming to California, and generally I did not know how to handle being an “adult.” Having spent three months at UC Berkeley, I can say that I am having an awesome time here. I have made a bunch of friends from different parts of California as well as out of state and international students. I even met a guy from Loyola Blakefield, a private school in Baltimore. As fellow Marylanders, we know some of the same people, which is super neat because it is a taste of home.

While making my college decision choice, I went in with the mindset that I could be successful anywhere. I had a strong work ethic and desire to be involved in high school, and knew this would continue into college. I am an intern in the Office of ASUC Senator Jay Choi. ASUC stands for the Associated Students of the University of California, which is basically the student government for the entire school. In addition to ASUC, I was also elected as my Residence Hall’s Residence Hall Assembly (RHA) representative. As RHA rep for my building, I bring my constituents’ voices and issues to the larger assembly where we vote on different sponsorship and legislation bills. In addition, I was selected to attend a leadership conference at the University of Southern California. The conference is called Pacific Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls (PACURH) and many different west coast schools attended.

For high school students who plan on attending college: develop your study habits now and listen to the advice of your teachers and parents. In college, you will have midterms, a final and an essay, and these basically determine your entire grade for the course. Along with this there are a ton of new distractions. Instead of having weekends where you can do homework, you’re in the dorm with other people and having club meetings. Time management is the key to success: you can have a great college experience while balancing studying, friends and having fun. My 12 years in HCPSS has engrained a serious work ethic within me that has helped me in high school and college.

Overall, I feel like college has helped me become more independent and learn how to handle responsibilities. I can no longer rely on my parents because I am not going back to Maryland until winter break. I do miss my family, friends, cats and Maryland in general, but on the west coast I am becoming the person I want to be, while having a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Very soon l I am flying back to the east coast and will be done with my first semester at UC Berkeley. Oh how time flies!