Middle schoolers win big in statewide competition


March 24, 2000|By Lourdes Sullivan | Lourdes Sullivan,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

IT'S BEEN three weeks since children at Patuxent Valley Middle School held their Black Saga competition Feb. 29. Participating pupils were required to answer questions about African-American history.

On Saturday, three Patuxent Valley teams advanced to the state competition in College Park.

Two returned victorious.

Although this was the first year the school participated in the competition, two of its teams took first and third place.

The statewide competition is 4 years old. According to Judith Cephas, one of the two coordinators of the school competition, Patuxent Valley learned of the Black Saga contest rather late.

With just three weeks between the schoolwide and statewide competitions, she didn't expect the school to win against more experienced competitors.

"I just thought this would be an excellent experience," she said.

The first round of the state competition changed her mind when two Patuxent Valley teams advanced to the finals.

"In the first round, both our teams answered correctly, and then the next two or three questions, and I thought we might have a chance.

"I thought a prayer for help," Cephas said, and the teams continued to do well.

Mark Stout, a social studies resource teacher, looked at Cephas and gave her a thumbs up. Stout, from the Howard County schools central office, introduced teachers Jen Kaplan and Cephas to the Black Saga competition.

There was a moment of anxiety when Patuxent Valley tied for third place, which required a sudden-death tiebreaker. But, in the end, Patuxent Valley prevailed.

Reaction to the teams' success has been terrific for the school and the children. The first-prize winners took home $300 each, and those finishing third $100 each. The school netted a matching $400 in prize money.

There is nothing quite like knowing a fellow classmate won cool cash for studying to encourage academics. Cephas reports she has received e-mail from parents informing her that their children are preparing for next year's competition.

And so is she. She watched how the students tried different strategies to master 400 years of history in a few weeks and was impressed.

Often the students met during lunch in Cephas' classroom. Like any good coach and mentor, she is looking ahead.

"I have a secret strategy for next year," she said.

Congratulations to Matthew Radhe, Sade Stephenson and Donielle Johnson, who won first place, and to Andrew Langowski, Steven Stephenson and Fiona Schram, who won third place.

Emergency kits

The folks at Emanuel United Methodist Church in Scaggsville have put together more than 250 kits filled with emergency supplies for those caught in natural disasters.

The kits contain such things as personal toiletries, baby necessities and school supplies. Thank you to all who donated money and material, and thank you especially to those stalwarts who put the kits together.

Kudos to Joyce Hill, Ginny Rush, Alison Thompson, Nancy Herron, Marjorie Dean, Ruth Ann Hodges, Barbara Bloodworth, Rosemary Hall, Jim Robinson, Karen Rushing, John Ewald, Joe Herron, Brian McNeally, Phyllis Hall, Mary Dennis, Stephen Rickets, Amanda Herron, the Rev. Vicky Starnes, Jacob Ewald, Hannah Ewald, John Ewald and Wanda Roberts.

Egg hunt

The North Laurel Civic Association and Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks have planned a lovely way to celebrate spring without tracking mud into everyone's home: an egg hunt at Laurel Woods Elementary.

Children, from toddlers to fifth-graders, are invited to look for eggs at 10 a.m. April 15.

Games and prizes are planned. Registration is required.

The cost is $4 a person; $11 a family.

Information: 410-313-4700.

Census 2000

It's time to fill out your census forms. These confidential records, required by the Constitution of the United States, help the government decide how many members of the House of Representatives a state will have. The information is also used to decide how some federal funds are distributed.

Realizing that some people have questions about their legal responsibility to complete the census or have trouble filling out the form, Census Bureau representatives will be at the Savage Library to answer questions and offer help.

Hours are 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and noon to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

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