At Laurel Woods Elementary, the pep squad's got the spirit


February 01, 2002|By Betsy Diehl | Betsy Diehl,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

GOT SPIRIT? Pupils at Laurel Woods Elementary School do, thanks to the pompom-wielding members of the school's pep squad.

They are full of "S-P-I-R-I-T!" They shout it, clap it, spell it and stomp it, from a crouch on the floor to a pose in the air. But the girls aren't rooting for a Super Bowl team - they're cheering on their school, home of the Laurel Woods Dolphins.

The pep squad, which consists of 19 third-, fourth- and fifth-grade girls, performs at school events such as quarterly awards ceremonies and Field Day, said their coach, Lisa Magda, a reading teacher at the school. The girls even stage pep rallies for those taking the state's Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills, given to second- and fourth-graders, and the Maryland State Performance Assessment Program tests.

"They get the kids excited about taking standardized tests, which is hard to do," said Magda, who has been teaching for nearly 11 years.

The pep squad is in its second year. Last year, when Magda started the free, after-school program, the squad was open to the whole school. "Anyone who wanted to join could," she said.

As a result, she found herself coaching 70 children. "I was not expecting that many. We muddled through and did fine," Magda said.

This year, pupils had to try out, and limits were established regarding the age and number of participants. Of 40 contenders, about half were selected by a panel of five judges (which did not include Magda) based on performance, ability and the all-important smile.

The squad has practiced weekly since the beginning of the school year.

"At first, it was complicated," acknowledged Vanessa Orji, a fifth-grader. She says she practices her routines - especially her splits - at home every day. "If you don't do it continuously, you will forget," she said.

The squad also includes third-graders Haley Powell, Taylor Garris and Aubreyana LaFayette; fourth-graders Temi Ariyo, Jumoke Dosunmu, Asia Ambers, Bola Fapohunda, Celina Eugenio and Emily Campbell; fifth-graders Lena Howard, Tranell Brigman, Lucia Blasko, Mary Lewis, Chantel Hawkins, Nicole Hawkins and Jerrica Davis.

Fifth-grader Cashae Butler is captain of the squad and Lauren Cunningham, also a fifth-grader, is co-captain.

During a recent practice, the girls demonstrated an admirable mix of enthusiasm and discipline. They seemed captivated by Magda, who is a veteran cheerleader, and listened intently to her instructions while going through the routines. Their crisp, precise motions were reminiscent of older, seasoned cheerleaders', but their beaming smiles revealed the unmistakable excitement of childhood.

Magda, who grew up near Pittsburgh, has been a cheerleader or coach since she was in second grade. She says she formed the pep squad as a way to promote school spirit and to foster self-confidence in the young squad members.

"I like to see the girls feel good about themselves," she said. "They're proud of themselves and proud of the school."

On Monday, the squad will perform at an awards ceremony, sporting brand-new blue-and-white uniforms purchased with proceeds from a candy sale.

Cassandra Davis sees her daughter Jerrica's involvement as an incentive to maintain good grades and behavior (both are required by Magda) and also as a "stepping stone" to joining similar squads when she gets older.

"She may one day be a Redskinette," Davis said. "You never know."

Useful cartridges

The music department at Lime Kiln Middle School has a fund-raising scheme that does not require buying - and subsequently eating - mounds of candy. In fact, you need not buy anything at all.

Just give your used inkjet printer cartridges to the school, instead of pitching them in the trash. Black and color cartridges are recycled by a firm that pays the school a commission for each one, said Nellie Hill, Lime Kiln's general music teacher. Laser printer cartridges also will be accepted.

Individuals and businesses may bring spent cartridges to the school, 11650 Scaggsville Road in Fulton. A collection box is in the main lobby.

Information: 410-880-5988.

Chinese New Year

The year of the horse is dawning, and the Savage library will celebrate Monday with a Chinese-English story time led by Diane Li, the assistant branch manager, who is from China.

The program, which will run from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., will feature stories, songs and a dragon-puppet craft for ages 3 to 6. Registration is required.

Information: 410-880-5978.

Parting words

William Lowry says that when it comes to the Super Bowl, he does not adhere to any tradition, save watching the game faithfully each year.

"It's the culmination of the NFL," said the Forest Ridge Elementary School teachers secretary. "If you have an interest in football, you have to watch the Super Bowl."

How he watches it depends on who is playing. Lowry might have held an elaborate to-do if the Redskins or Ravens were contenders, but this year, he's content to watch the game quietly.

"Me and my cat, Treble, will watch together," he said, noting that they will be rooting for the New England Patriots.

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