Seniors - at last

Marriotts Ridge's first graduating class creates its own traditions

October 12, 2007|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Kristen Miller, a senior at Marriotts Ridge High School, had waited a long time for this moment. "This is our first big senior activity," she said, her hands covered with Old Bay and bits of crab meat as she picked through the pile of steamed crustaceans.

For the evening, the high school cafeteria had been transformed. Gone were the lunches of sloppy Joes and popcorn chicken. Gone, for that matter, were the underclassmen. The seniors were running the show, and they had created a crab feast, complete with corn on the cob, sliced fruit, 16 bushels of crabs, and brown paper on the cafeteria tables.

The only juniors allowed to attend Monday night were members of the student government, who were there to help out - and to see what they would need to do the next year to keep the newborn tradition going.

As music played, seniors picked through crabs, talked and laughed. The $40 admission price included T-shirts that read: "Crabby you're not a senior? You should be."

For Miller, who is senior class vice president, the event marked a turning point in her high school experience. When Marriotts Ridge opened in 2005, only freshman and sophomores (from Glenelg, Mount Hebron, Centennial and River Hill high schools) attended. Since there were no seniors, there were no senior proms, no senior breakfasts, none of the senior-centric activities that are so much a part of the high school experience.

"It was really hard not having the classes above us," said Lydia Tucker, the senior class president.

But two years later, those sophomores have become the first senior class at the Marriottsville high school, and they are savoring the unusual opportunity to create traditions they hope will live on long after they have graduated.

"I'm really glad that we're seniors and we get to set the traditions," said Miller, who arrived at Marriotts Ridge as a sophomore after spending her freshman year at Glenelg High School.

In addition to the crab feast, the senior class is planning a senior breakfast for Wednesday while sophomores and juniors are taking the PSATs. In May, they will have a prom, a farewell breakfast, a senior picnic and a class night at Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center. Homecoming will officially start the next year.

Pat Saunderson, the school's principal, sat at a table with other school officials, eating his share of crabs. "It's neat to see," he said. "These kids have waited for this for a long time."

He noted that the senior class, with no upperclassmen to emulate or existing traditions to copy, "have emerged as a very special group of leaders." And he said events such as the crab feast help the students bond.

Of the school's 1,200 students, 270 are seniors, said Saunderson. Attendance at the crab feast was about 140.

Efforts have been made to keep the Marriotts Ridge students from feeling deprived. Saunderson said the school has held a "fall ball" to take the place of homecoming, and last year students had a junior prom at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore, the same place this school year's prom will be held. The school also sold class rings at the end of sophomore year, noted Mark Dubbs, the Student Government Association adviser.

But this year is different. Dubbs said student leaders in the SGA worked over the summer to come up with senior class events. Robin Grey, senior class adviser along with Tracey Rizzo, said she has been advising this class since they were sophomores.

The students created and led school clubs right from the beginning, she said.

"The sophomores provided a lot of leadership in starting almost all the clubs we have here at Marriotts Ridge," Grey said. That includes student government, an environmental service club and class councils. Not only did the older students develop these programs, she said, they have also trained students in the grades below them so they can take over.

"Slowly, they've developed their leadership skills," she said. "They've had to grow up pretty quickly."

As Grey looked around the transformed cafeteria, she seemed pleased with the quintessential senior moment blossoming around her. "It's the first true senior-exclusive event," she said. "The kids have been really looking forward to it."

"I think it brings our class together as a whole," said Lindsay Cohen, the SGA's publicity secretary.

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