Atholton High student honored for leadership

May 16, 1994|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,Sun Staff Writer

At 18, Ellen Barth has already left an impression on Atholton High School and the community by her leadership.

She maintains a 4.0 grade point average, calculates equations for the math team, plays on the tennis squad and sings jazz.

But her most lasting high school achievement is Project PROMise, a consignment shop she began last spring to raise money for charities by reselling prom dresses.

Ellen's efforts recently won her the Principal's Leadership Award, one of 150 $1,000 scholarships given nationally to high school students who show outstanding initiative.

"She's a real standout," said Scott Pfeifer, Atholton's principal, who nominated Ellen for the award. "You're talking about the best and brightest here, judged by educational leaders."

The Reston, Va.-based National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) picked the scholarship recipients from 6,500 nominees nationwide. Ellen, a senior, plans to use her scholarship this fall when she attends Brown University.

In December, she wrote an essay for her scholarship application describing Project PROMise, a thrifty second-hand shop that helps defer the cost of prom dresses and donates money to the community.

"It's an honor," said Ellen, who learned of her award last month. "I'm excited. It's neat to be recognized for all the stuff I've done."

Last week, her activities won her a National Honor Society scholarship based on leadership from the NASSP.

For this award, Ellen wrote about the harm of television on youths. The award also carries a $1,000 prize that she also plans to put toward college.

"The habit of watching TV is detrimental," said Ellen, who may study linguistics in college. "Television takes away from important things you could do."

But Ellen acknowledges she is a loyal viewer of her father, Andy Barth, a general assignment reporter for WMAR-TV Channel 2.

In her spare time she performs in school plays, takes private singing lessons and works on the school's human relations committee.

"Free time is minimal," Ellen says. "But I wouldn't say I've sacrificed fun. I enjoy everything I'm doing, so it's OK."

Project PROMise is one example of how helping others can be exciting, she says.

Operated in vacant storefronts donated by Columbia Management Inc. in the Dorsey Search Village Center, 30 percent of the store's consignment proceeds go to Grass Roots Inc. and the Howard County Domestic Violence Center.

"Ellen is one of those rare kids with tremendous interest in community involvement," said Andrea Ingram, director of Grass Roots Inc., a 24-hour crisis intervention center in Hickory Ridge.

Now in its second year, about 50 students and adults work at the store. An advisory committee of students, parents, county officials and social service workers was recently formed to make sure Ellen's idea lives on.

"Necessity is the mother of invention," Ellen says of her idea, which has brought her several honors, including a $750 Entrepreneurial Spirit Award from the National Association of Women Business Owners in Baltimore and a $500 Community Service Scholarship from the Howard County PTA Council.

The International Council of Shopping Centers in New York gave Ellen's invention first-place honors in the community service category in October.

"She's marked the school with her talent and service," Mr. Pfeifer said. "That's the legacy she'll leave."

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