THE OWEN BROWN Middle School Tri-M Music Honor Society held a holiday party for about 90 senior citizens from seven Howard County senior centers five days before Christmas.
The guests were treated to a holiday concert and luncheon, and a winter concert was performed by the entire music department in the school's multipurpose room.
Then the seniors were escorted to the "cabaret" - the school gym.
"The gym was magically transformed," said band director Belinda King. "The kids decorated the whole thing with decorations they brought from home."
The room was filled with small round tables, each one set with a different tablecloth and centerpiece representing various December holidays.
The schoolchildren, dressed in black pants, white shirts, blue ties and cummerbunds, ushered the seniors to their seats. Ushers included seventh-graders Brad Shepard, Katie Sturm, Graham Pitts and Phillip Harman.
Then, changing roles, the young people served lunch and dessert.
The school's jazz band performed holiday favorites during the luncheon.
This was not a sedentary crowd. The partygoers got up and danced. Children danced with seniors and seniors danced together.
When it was over, no guest left empty-handed: Everyone was given a hand-painted holiday ornament.
"The students were terrific," said Judy Miller, director of Western Howard County Senior Center Plus. "They helped everyone off the buses. They were friendly and polite. It was just great."
The seniors enjoyed themselves. "It was really wonderful to see the children playing their instruments and show us what they are learning," said Eleanor Edberg. Helen Fields said she enjoyed meeting old friends from other sites around the county.
One youth said he learned an important lesson from the guests.
"They told me life is precious," seventh-grader Diop Wallace said. "It's important to be good to others because you only have a short time in this world. After meeting them, I will try not to take so many things for granted."
The Tri-M organization, which includes about 30 seventh- and eighth-graders, planned the event. "We had a different vision when this all started out," King said. "But the kids were unable to get donations. I guess everyone is just given out this year."
So the kids were told to go home and see what they could find to use for the event, King said, and they rose to the occasion. They assembled the decorations and even made the invitations and fliers. Kelly Sutter designed the invitations and Chris Poole designed the fliers.
The party was so successful that organizers are hoping to make it an annual event. To arrange a donation for next year's Seniors Holiday Party: 410-313-7607.
Young chess champions
The Council of Elders of the Black Student Achievement Program (BSAP) held its second biannual chess tournament at Long Reach High School this month. Fifty participants turned out for the tournament, which is part of the Saturday morning math program offered by BSAP.
Program director Robert Washington said the goal of the tournaments is to foster academic achievement, raise self-esteem, enhance creativity and critical thinking, and to teach the value of hard work and delayed gratification to African-American youths.
The young people competed in four categories: younger elementary school (kindergarten through third grade); older elementary school (fourth and fifth grade); middle school; and high school.
First-place winners were Keith Dailey, Ra Quel Brown, Diop Wallace and Chris Collins. Second-place winners were Justen Figueroa, Conley Naiker, Jonathan Bannister and Glen Cromwell. Third-place winners were Jordan Johnson, Moriah Young, Aaron Bing and D.J. Stokes. Fourth-place winners were William Presum, Kendra Pierre-Louis and Stephanie Hunter. Fifth-place winners were Xavier Thomas, Sara Hailu and Kurt Naiker.
"Chess helps children learn to think logically," parent Donald Wallace said. "It's another wonderful program offered by the BSAP."
Shake, rattle and roll
Owen Brown residents felt the earth move under their feet nearly two weeks ago. Many were surprised to learn the loud boom they heard and the vibrations they felt were caused by a small earthquake that hit the area at 1:30 p.m. on a quiet Tuesday afternoon.
Although the area experienced a quake and some aftershocks in 1993, it is still not the first explanation that comes to mind.
"It sounded like an explosion," said Robert Passman, a graphic designer who was working from his home office in Owen Brown. "I was wondering if the al-Qaida [terrorist organization] hit the gas station down the street, or something like that."
But Passman said he saw no smoke or commotion outside. He was relieved to learn later that day it was an earthquake.
Retired Owen Brown resident Jean Stewart said she had just gotten home from an outpatient surgical procedure.
"I was sleeping off the anesthetics," Stewart said. "You know how out of it you are from that. Well, that boom woke me right out of it."
One neighbor, who asked that her name not be used, said she knew what the sound was almost immediately. She has earthquake insurance.
"After the last earthquake, I found out the only thing that would be covered was the glass in the windows," she said. "The whole house could fall down and all I could get was new glass."
Day care provider Lois Murphy said she was home but didn't experience anything out of the ordinary.
"With all the kids in the house and the home down the street being remodeled, I didn't notice a thing," she said.