Lunch and limo awarded for better grades


May 25, 2001|By Peg Adamarczyk | Peg Adamarczyk,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

SMILES AND handshakes from a receiving line greeted 184 middle school pupils arriving Wednesday at Kurtz's Beach, collecting their rewards in an educational motivation contest sponsored by County Council Chairwoman Shirley Murphy and the Business Advisory Board for Pasadena Schools.

The contest, open to pupils at Chesapeake Bay, George Fox and Marley middle schools, was created by Democrat Murphy and the board to reward average pupils in her councilmanic District 3 for improving their grades in academic subjects.

The organizers also hoped that improved academic performance would translate into higher Maryland School Performance Assessment Program test achievement by the schools.

To qualify for the contest, pupils had to show improvement in third-quarter report cards by at least one letter grade in three major academic subjects.

Children who had grades of B or lower were challenged to improve - with C the lowest improved grade allowed for contest inclusion.

Their reward, in addition to praise from parents and teachers, would be a school-day outing - a luncheon at Kurtz's served by celebrity waiters including state and local elected officials, school board members and a surprise sports celebrity.

One other perk was offered - transportation to the event in a stretch limousine for those raising grades in all four major subjects.

Of the 3,582 pupils enrolled at the three schools, 29 won the limo ride.

Marley Middle had 10 pupils qualifying to travel in style: Donald Walls, Patrick Shield, Chris Fink, David Beck, Christa Wolff, Scott Woerner, Jennifer Wells, Ashley Raeke, Sarah Murphy and Joe McCreary.

At George Fox, three qualified: Gordon Berry, Matthew Hipkins and Chris Tarr.

Chesapeake Bay's 16 limo riders were: Christopher Ernest, Charles Gordon, Patrick Hart, Deana Hartman, Heather Haynes, Megan Kehoe, Ladereke Luster, Daniel Margotta, Christopher Pelligrini, Kerwin Porter, Dennis Sheets, Tiffani Showell-Logan, Kevin Shubert, Sean Sturgill, Erica Taylor and Cody Walsh.

Patricia G. Willey, marketing specialist at County National Bank and co-chairwoman of the event with Murphy, was enthusiastic about the contest response from pupils and area businesses.

"Without the help from the business community - John Mason at Kurtz's for providing the banquet hall and all of the food, Gail Hyser from Wilson Bus Lines and Rick Beyer from Aloha Limousine - we wouldn't have been able to sponsor the contest," Willey said.

Pupil reaction to the contest was also positive.

Marley Middle seventh-grader Donald Walls was floored when he found out that he would be riding in a limo.

"I really wanted to do it," he said. "I thought, `How cool.' I knew that it would be a lot of work since I've had C's, D's and E's on my report card, but I really wanted to go. After I learned that I made it, my parents told me how proud they were and that they knew all along that I could do it, all I had to do was try."

Limo riders Gordon Berry and Chris Tarr from George Fox Middle credited their mothers for encouraging participation in the contest.

"My mom [Michele] encouraged me to improve my grades," said Chris, an eighth-grader.

"Yeah, my mom [Lisa] said I could do it, too," said seventh-grader Gordon, "and I did."

Asked about his motivation to participate, eighth-grader Nathan Hughes from Chesapeake Bay said he didn't go to any extraordinary lengths to win a luncheon invitation. "I just studied and tried a little harder to get good grades," he said, "that's all."

That seemed to be a consensus of opinion among the young people: Do your assigned work, study and the positive results will show in grades.

Keith Mills, WMAR-TV sports anchor and luncheon master of ceremonies, summed up the overall goals of the contest as he questioned the young crowd about plans for the future.

He asked for a show of hands about plans for high school participation in extracurricular activities - sports, chorus, band or orchestra, even the National Honor Society - and noted that every child seemed to raise a hand at some point.

"Being here, improving your grades, is the first step to getting where you want to be," Mills said. "Grades do make a difference to your future plans."

Mills also added his praise: "I have to hand it to all of you - you said that you were going to get good grades and you did it. That takes courage and hard work."

Murphy was pleased with the outcome of the contest and the luncheon experience. "It was a good day with a great group of students," she said. "We couldn't have asked for anything more."

Plans for more contests are in the works - including finding a way to recognize pupils with consistent academic accomplishments. (Those with grades already near perfect were not targeted in this motivational contest.)

Kurtz's Mason said that if treating the crowd of more than 200 to a free lunch helped just one pupil, "it was worth it."

Rick Beyer of Aloha Limousine has committed his fleet for a return engagement. And the politicians will be back.

Strawberry season

Solley United Methodist Church will begin the local strawberry season with its annual midweek festival, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, rain or shine.

Margaret Phelps, church spokeswoman, said people return each year for good food and socializing. "It has become quite the social event for Solley's neighbors," she said.

Visitors can purchase pit ham or beef sandwiches, barbecue beef, homemade crab soup, hot dogs, beverages and desserts.

Tickets for the strawberry dessert - fresh berries served with homemade cake, ice cream and a drink - are $3.50 for adults and $2 for children younger than age 12.

Children's entertainment, a bake table and a sale of white elephant items also will be featured.

The church is at 7600 Solley Road, off Fort Smallwood Road. Information: 410-255-2750.

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