A cherished opportunity to merge two passions

NEIGHBORS

July 26, 2002|By Susan Harpster | Susan Harpster,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

IT'S NOT often you get the chance to do something you absolutely love. So when asked to indulge my passion for writing and my commitment to community service, it was an opportunity too perfect to resist.

Every morning, I'm up before dawn, stealing a quiet hour alone with my coffee and newspaper. I devour every written word and am often teased by friends for asking, "Did you see that article in The Sun today?"

I can't imagine what life would be like without my daily dose of current events, and I am so excited to be reporting on the life of our community.

Southern Howard County has changed so much since I moved here in 1991. It wasn't easy for a "big city girl" from Philadelphia to adjust to this quiet, suburban neighborhood of farmland and country roads. But starting a family made the transition easier, and it wasn't long before I knew that I had stumbled upon a little piece of heaven.

I've watched southern Howard grow at lightning speed. If you blink your eyes, the landscape changes before you've had the chance to take it in. A cow named Molly still lives down the road from my house, but she is the only one oblivious to the development springing up all around.

What is it about our neighborhood that is so attractive to so many people?

The answer is simple: Our schools and churches, our recreation centers, libraries and civic groups offer a sense of real community. But most of all, the energy and imagination of our people know no bounds. The strength of our neighborhood is in its diversity. The old and the new come together to make us bigger and better than ever.

Whatever your interest, southern Howard County probably has an organization to suit your needs. If you can't find what you're looking for, though, start it yourself and watch it take on a life of its own.

When my first child was born in 1992, I was alone in a new town, desperate for companionship and feeling more than a little overwhelmed by inexperience. With the help of my local community center, I created a group for first-time moms in my neighborhood.

Thirteen women, with babies in tow, arrived eagerly at the first meeting. We met weekly for six months at the center, and then in each other's homes, providing support and forming friendships that have lasted for years. The idea took off and today, 10 years later, I still have to smile when I read that new groups for moms - and dads - are being formed in neighborhoods throughout our area.

This is not a unique occurrence. In fact, it happens every day. Something that starts as an idea unites people with similar interests and culminates in stories of celebration and success. Over the years, reading this column has often provided me with inspiration and kept me up to date on all the good things happening right in our back yard.

As your new community correspondent for southern Howard County, it is my pleasure to continue the tradition of reporting the achievements of our neighbors and friends. I look forward to hearing from you and writing about your activities. Please feel free to call me at 301- 317-4719, or send e-mail to spharpster@comcast.net.

Night of the Arts

Night of the Arts, held last week at Murray Hill Middle School, showcased the talents of 130 Murray Hill children and rising sixth-graders who attended a four-week enrichment camp called Summer @ The Hill.

The camp invited professional performers and artists to teach short "camps" in dance, poetry, visual arts, drama, music, Web design, sports and other activities.

The audience at Night of the Arts - the camp's final recital - were treated to a variety of live performances and proud performers.

Towson University staff members directed a production of "Respect" by Dance Explosion - the dance segment of the camp. Camper Marjani Green spoke to the audience about her two-week experience. Besides learning about various styles of dance, Marjani said, "during these two weeks we also learned that respect is essential to our community." Other young dancers talked about the meaning of the word respect in a video shown before the performance.

Other dance performers were Anuli Akanegbu, Courtney Andrews, Kaniesha Birdine, Tranell Brigman, Lauren Cunningham, Sadie Esmaell-Crozier, Titi Fashina, Lena Howard, Rachael Kornak, Ronetta Liles, Vanessa Manford, Vanessa Orji, Ariel Peterson, Jazminique Peterson, Tiara Smith and Destine Windon.

Night of the Arts also included readings of original poetry; Tom Lehrer's song "Pollution," sung by participants in "Toby's camp" and directed by Toby's Dinner Theatre; a marimba and drum concert by the children in the Marimba Kalimba camp (who also provided the music for the dance performance); and a production coached by Drama Kids, a Howard County franchise.

Summer @ The Hill was coordinated by Gifted and Talented Program resource teacher Lisa Gottlieb and was sponsored by LAMP - Laurel Woods, Atholton and Murray Hill Project.

LAMP provides enrichment for children at Laurel Woods Elementary, Atholton High and Murray Hill. Summer @ The Hill and bus transportation to the camp were free.

Murray Hill counselor Julie Berla said LAMP is funded by a federal grant that the North Laurel community received last year through the Howard County public school system and the Local Children's Board.

LAMP's logo is a lighthouse "that stands for lighting the way to lifelong learning," she said.

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