How's a quiet, reserved, shy student come to be elected president ofthe Student Council three years running?
Hard work and confidence.
Mark Kitchens says that when he came to the John Archer School nine years ago, he was not only quiet and reserved, but he lacked self-confidence.
Now, as he prepares for graduation and advanced training at Harford Community College this summer, he's a different person.
"I'm proud of myself," said Mark. He's got good reason to be.
For the past three years, his fellow students have voted for him to be president of the Student Council and he's earned recognition for his performance of his job at the Human Engineering Lab at Aberdeen Proving Ground where he works part-time in the supply department. He hasreceived merit pay raises and an award for his work at the lab.
John Archer Principal Rod Ewing says it's hard to believe Mark, 21, isthe same person who came through the doors of the school nine years ago. The John Archer School is Harford's separate special education school for students with physical or mental handicaps.
"Mark is mildly mentally limited and has mild language disability," says Ewing. "When he first came here, he was in a shell. But he has developed self-confidence and handles his leadership responsibilities very well. We're very proud of him."
After he graduates, Mark will take a six-week training course at Harford Community College. With that training under his belt, he hopes for a job in a warehouse, managing supplies and inventory.
"I want people to know I'm a responsible, kind person," says Mark. "I'm a very organized person. I'm a very good worker,too."
But don't think for a minute that work and responsibility are all that are on Mark's mind. His teacher, Bailey Dew, says Mark has a light side -- he's definitely the class joker at times. He can produce jokes on demand.
"What's got a red nose, lives at the North Pole and has a hump?" Mark asks with a smile.
The answer? "Rudolph, the red-nosed camel."
"I'll miss him," says Dew. "He cares a lotabout other people, and he would never say an unkind word to anyone.He's also got a great memory; he's always reminding me about things."
Mark, who has been in Dew's class for the last three years, saysshe and other teachers at the school have helped him change into a young man who's prepared to face the world
"When I came here I was a little bit nervous because I didn't know anybody. But I got used toit."