Atholton High School junior wins election for student slot on the Board of Education



Wossen Ayele, a 17-year-old junior at Atholton High School and newly elected student member of the Howard County Board of Education, plans to increase the communication between the board and students and continue the work of classmate and current member Jeff Lasser.

Ayele has closely followed what Lasser - who also attends Atholton - has done in this past school year to prepare him for the position.

"I believe that the students have a legitimate stake in the Board of Education," Ayele said. "It's necessary that they understand their role."

Ayele defeated Amy Butler, a junior at Wilde Lake High School, after 17,208 county students voted in an election held last week. Ayele received 62 percent of the vote with 10,673 voters, while Butler received 38 percent of the vote with 6,535 supporters, according to results released Friday.

"It was a nice countywide effort," said Roger Plunkett, business, community, government relation officer for the school system.

This year's election included students from sixth grade to the 11th grade. In the past, eighth-graders to 11th-graders could vote.

"The feedback has been very good with the way we ran elections this year," Plunkett said.

Ayele enlisted the help of his friends, mother and fellow members of the Black Student Achievement Program to help him campaign. He said his supporters put up fliers at 11 high schools and five middle schools.

"I didn't spend much money campaigning," he said. "I used word of mouth."

When Ayele takes over for Lasser on July 1, he will be able to cast opinion votes and participate in public hearings and forums. He also will be expected to present a student report during the beginning of each board meeting.

Despite the fact that Ayele's vote will not count on the board, Plunkett said that the opinion vote is important.

"He'll still have the opportunity to make meaningful contributions," Plunkett said. "By voicing his concerns, he will be able to help board members make final decisions. The superintendent and the Board of Education value student input."

Plunkett said Ayele also will help to craft legislation needed in advance of the 2007-2008 student board member receiving partial voting rights.

As president of Atholton's Class of 2007 and a member of the National Honor Society, the Howard County Youth Council of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the school newspaper, Ayele said he will be ready for the rigors of the school board. He also said he will lighten his course load next year.

"I'm not committing to too many extracurricular activities," he said. "I want to make sure I can do the job very well."

Helping La. school

Pupils at Bonnie Branch Middle School are sending a little love to Louisiana this year - specifically, 250 "Binders of Love" to Our Lady of Prompt Succor School in St. Bernard's Parish in Louisiana.

The binders, being sent as part of the eighth-grade service learning project and each equipped with a spiral notebooks, a full pencil case, ruler and loose-leaf paper, were expected to be loaded onto a Red Cross truck Friday.

Our Lady of Prompt Succor School is the only school now operating in St. Bernard Parish - an area bordering New Orleans that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in August - making it a perfect recipient for the project, said Natalie Janiszewski, an eighth-grade teacher at Bonnie Branch and one of the organizers of the project.

"We wanted to do something for the hurricane victims," Janiszewski said. "They have 30 kids right now. Next year they will have 300."

The entire eighth grade - with slightly fewer than 250 pupils - participated in the project.

"They feel good about themselves," Janiszewski said. "They are doing something to help and make a difference. They brought tons of stuff in. It's wonderful."

Books also are going

About 2,000 books will accompany the "Binders of Love" in "Books for the Bayou's Babies," an unrelated project.

The brainchild of Annie Herbert, a reading specialist at Bonnie Branch Middle, "Babies" is an attempt to "return literacy back to this generation of kids who have lost all of their books."

Herbert said she worked with nine other county schools and Barnes & Noble Booksellers to collect the books. She visited Louisiana in February, and "it just ripped my heart out."

Herbert's biggest obstacle was sending the books to the school.

"It would cost $700," she said. "I couldn't afford that." Then she learned about "Binders of Love" and made the connection.

"It never occurred to me to ask them where they [the binders] were going," Herbert said.

April Christmas

Christmas is months away but that hasn't stopped students at Glenelg Country School from getting into the giving mood.

Last weekend, 15 students and three teachers renovated a home in Aladdin Village Mobile Home Park near Jessup for "Christmas in April."

Juniors Sarah Lichenstein, Erin Meegan and Sabina Kaczanowska, who led the effort, organized bake sales and a dress-down day and raised more than $4,000 for the project.

Manekin LLC, a commercial real estate company, contributed $500 to the project.

With the help of Walter Mattson, a humanities teacher at the school who is a master carpenter, the group was able to make the mobile home wheelchair-accessible for the owner, a man who suffers from a pulmonary condition. They also remodeled a bathroom to accommodate his scooter.

"It's really looking nice," said David Weeks, civic leadership director for the school. "I'm just so impressed with the girls' commitment to make this happen and make a difference in the life of this homeowner."

Weeks said he plans to honor the girls with an awards assembly before the end of the school year.

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