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At 6:30 p.m. on January 17, 2017, approximately twenty-four Lewistown Elementary School students were dressed in their PJ’s and ready for bed, but they weren’t at home. Along with their parents, they went back to school for Family Literacy Night, sponsored by the PTA.

The children brought blankets, stuffed animals, and pillows, and they made themselves comfortable. Through the magic of storytelling, Dr. Cook, Associate Professor of Education at Mt. St. Mary’s University, treated the children to a trip around the world in their minds. She began by telling a Pawnee Folk tale, Baby Rattlesnake, and invited the children to join in a rattlesnake song and dance. The trip around the world continued with a Ukrainian folk tale, an Australian adventure, and a story from China. The trip concluded with a bedtime story, Interrupting Chicken, by David Ezra Stein. Lewistown Elementary Literacy Specialist Abby Dillon said that the families enjoyed the relaxing night and that one student thanked her for “such a fun slumber party.”

Dr. Cook, Associate Professor of Education at Mt. St. Mary’s University, is pictured with Lewistown Elementary students and their families, during Literacy Night, held January 17, 2017.

Theresa Dardanell

Leadership, kindness, honesty, and a caring attitude are only a few of the characteristics of the students honored during the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration on January 12, 2017, at Gov. Thomas Johnson High School. One student from each of the Frederick County Public Schools was chosen for this award. The quotes below are from the nominations submitted by the staff at each school in the Catoctin feeder area.

Michael Tylicki (senior at Catoctin High) was selected to represent Catoctin High School as this year’s King Award Winner because “He works well with all students, including those with special needs. Learning for Life students love Mikey for his kindness and willingness to help them. Instead of aligning with a specific peer group, he is really a friend to all. Michael is a humble student who is honest and cares about others. He is a quiet leader, mature beyond his years.”

Abigail Christian (eight-grade student at Thurmont Middle) was chosen for this honor because “She is a wonderfully caring and helpful student. She contributes to the learning environment, volunteering to tutor students having difficulty and sharing honestly with them with what they have to do. Because Abigail puts forth her best, she is able to earn very good grades. Abigail has a bright, infectious and sunny attitude, making her a positive role model. She is a considerate and respectful leader.”

Trey Glass (second-grade student at Thurmont Primary) received this award. Staff and students describe him as “displaying great heart power, perseverance by never giving up, and always having a positive can-do attitude.” They consider him a leader.

Patrick Payton (fifth-grade student at Thurmont Elementary) was presented with this award because “Patrick is all of the things one would expect of a young leader: honest, hardworking, and caring towards others; but Patrick is more than just these things. He is also the kind of person who holds high expectations for himself, making him a leader by example as well as by character.” Patrick is a Safety Patroller at Thurmont Elementary School.

Cody Faulkner (fifth-grade student at Emmitsburg Elementary) received this honor because “He continuously demonstrates the six pillars of character at Emmitsburg Elementary School. Cody follows directions the first time they are given and perseveres to complete assignments to the best of his ability. He is a quiet leader who consistently uses manners with adults and students. Through his actions, he encourages other students to make appropriate choices when solving problems. Humbly, Cody strives to help others at all times without being asked or without thought of praise or reward for himself.”

Jenna Conley (fifth-grade student at Lewistown Elementary) was chosen for this award because “Jenna has served as Peer Ambassador two years, is a Morning News crew member, and an art helper. She uses ROARing good behavior and lives her school motto to Learn, Excel and Succeed. A leader with gratitude, Jenna consistently includes others. She participates in Girls On The Run and is a great role model with a contagious upbeat attitude. She helps with classroom tasks and is trustworthy and honest, showing responsibility as she perseveres.”

Kylie Stracener (fifth-grade student at Sabillasville Elementary) received this award because “She consistently demonstrates the leadership qualities characteristic of Dr. King and the Pillars of Character Counts.”

The Community Foundation of Frederick County is pleased to announce its scholarship application is available for the 2017-2018 academic year beginning Wednesday, March 1, 2017.  By completing one general application, students may qualify for more than 250 scholarships. The completed application with required attachments must be submitted online no later than 11:59 p.m. EST on Friday, March 31.

Details about the scholarship program and the application can be accessed through the Community Foundation website at

Students about to complete their senior year of high school, students already enrolled in a trade school, college or university, and non-traditional students over the age of 21 are eligible to apply.  Scholarship criteria are established by the scholarship funds’ founding donors.  Some scholarships do not consider financial need.  All students are encouraged to apply.

The Community Foundation of Frederick County is a recognized leader in providing scholarships to area students, made possible by generous donors who establish funds, or add to existing funds. For the 2016-2017 academic year alone, the Community Foundation provided more than $1 million in scholarships to area students.

Once again this year, the Thurmont Lions Club proudly sponsors scholarship opportunities for Catoctin High School students, who are continuing their education at an institution of higher learning next year.

Four $1,000 scholarships will be awarded to four deserving CHS seniors later this spring at the local Lions Club Education Night, held in May. Applications for these scholarships can be picked up at the Counseling Office at Catoctin High School. Applications are due no later than April 10.

The Emmistsburg High School Association is accepting scholarship applications. Four $1,000 scholarships will be awarded in May to deserving students. Any Catoctin High School senior or graduate who is enrolled in an institution of higher learning, including trade schools, is eligible if he/she resides in the Emmitsburg School District. This includes Emmitsburg 21727, Rocky Ridge 21778, and Taneytown 21787 (Taneytown boundary is determined by Bridgeport on route 140). Applicants may apply each year, as long as they are enrolled in an institution.

Selection is based on having a 3.0 or higher grade point average, being a full-time student, presenting two letters of recommendation, their community and school activities, and pursuing higher education (technical school, four-year college, or community college).

Applications may be obtained by contacting the guidance department at Catoctin High School (240-236-8082 Ryan Zimmerman) or calling Phyllis Kelly (717) 642-6963. All applications must be received by May 10, 2017.

Attention graduating seniors related to a graduate from Thurmont High School!  Are you looking for a scholarship? Did you check the Community Foundation of Frederick County website at for the scholarships offered by the Thurmont High School Alumni Association?  Applications are accepted from March 1 through March 31, only. Also, remind your parents, grandparents, and their friends of the Thurmont High School Alumni banquet on Saturday, June 3, 2017, at the Lewistown Fire Hall. Any questions call 301-898-9898 or email

This year, Catoctin High School students are organizing the school’s very first Mini-THON fundraiser, a program that works with schools and colleges to raise money for Pediatric Cancer Research. The Catoctin Mini-THON fundraiser is a spin-off of Penn State’s THON fundraiser, which also raises money for the same cause. Both of these events include year-long fundraisers that end with an event that celebrates the hard work of the fundraiser and reveals the total proceeds raised. The goal of these fundraisers is to get students and the community involved in such an important and worthy cause.

The organization responsible for providing funding to Pediatric Cancer Research at Hershey Children’s Hospital is named Four Diamonds. Since 1972, over 3,700 children and their families have been relieved of the financial burden of Pediatric Cancer, thanks to Four Diamonds. After becoming a Four Diamonds Child, 100 percent of all medical expenses due to cancer that are not covered by a family’s insurance, are paid for by funds from Four Diamonds.

The creation of this life-changing organization was created because an eleven-year-old boy lost his three-year battle with cancer. In 1969, Christopher Mallard was diagnosed with cancer. During his battle, he wrote a story about a knight who was seeking the four diamonds of Courage, Wisdom, Honesty, and Strength, so that he could escape an evil sorceress. Christopher used the diamonds to symbolize what characteristics one needed to have in order to conquer cancer. His parents, Charles and Irma, created Four Diamonds as a way to honor their son’s life and help other families in need.

After hearing this touching story, Catoctin students were eager to get involved and joined the Mini-THON program. “Causes such as this are able to have profound effects on so many lives, and it’s truly amazing to be a part of it,” said Catoctin senior Hannah Belt.

Since the beginning of the school year, students have hosted several small fundraisers all leading up to one major Mini-THON event on April 7, 2017.  The Mini-THON event will be open to all Catoctin students and will feature performances, music, guest speakers, games, dancing, activities, food, prizes, and fun for everyone.

Tickets for Mini-THON will be available for purchase during lunch shifts closer to the event. Monetary and in-kind donations are being accepted for this event. If you’d like to make a donation to support this event, please contact chairperson Lily Bean at 301-788-8062.

For information on upcoming events, see Twitter and Facebook pages: Twitter: @CHSMini_THON;  Facebook Page: Catoctin High School 2017 MiniThon.

Theresa Dardanell

Staff and students at the Catoctin feeder schools joined together for a week in January to promote kindness.

Sabillasville Elementary

Students at Sabillasville Elementary watched a video that showed them how easy it is to be kind to others, and they received a copy of The Great Kindness Challenge, with suggestions for random acts of kindness that they could complete. Every class received a “Secret Mission” packet, along with a spy pen for keeping track of kind acts by students (secret agents!), who secretly served others by performing acts of kindness. Each day, when students arrived at school, they were invited with the help of peer mentors to complete a link for the “kindness chain.” According to School Counselor Stacy Bokinsky, the students enjoyed being kind to others.

Lewistown Elementary

Morning announcements during Kindness Week at Lewistown Elementary began with student peer ambassadors reading from the book, Kindness Counts by Bryan Smith. Students had “kindness coins” that they gave to classmates who performed kind acts. On Thursday, teachers were given a “kindness class button” that they wore. When they saw a considerate act performed by a student, they gave the button to that student. The buttons passed from one student to another during the day, as students showed kindness to one another.   On the first day, they took home a copy of The Great Kindness Challenge, so that they could continue their random acts of kindness at home.

Thurmont Elementary

The playground at Thurmont Elementary school was decorated with messages of kindness written in sidewalk chalk by the students. Students also participated in the “Kindness rocks project” by decorating rocks with caring messages and distributing them around the school and the community.   Students showed kindness beyond just their school; they read to children from a local daycare, visited the senior citizens at the center across the street from the school, made blankets to donate to a local charity, or wrote letters to students in other countries.

Emmitsburg Elementary

Students at Emmitsburg Elementary sent messages of caring and encouragement to members of the military and to children in hospitals, and wrote thank you letters to teachers and school staff. They showed that “kindness rocks” by decorating rocks with caring messages and then giving the rocks to someone. School Counselor Sarah Fawley said,  “The students were so excited about performing acts of kindness for others.”

Thurmont Middle

Students at Thurmont Middle were greeted each morning during Kindness Week by the Mayor and police officers from the town of Thurmont, along with the students in the Rachel’s Challenge group, the Leo Club, and the Art Club. School Counselor Rebecca Krauss said, “It was a lot of fun giving high-fives and starting the day on such a positive note.” Students created positive posters with the theme, “Kindness matters” and made gratitude cards for the custodians, secretaries, nurses and cafeteria staff.

Staff and students at Sabillasville Elementary wore “kind words” clothing one day during Kindness Week. Pictured with the kindness chain, created by students, are: (from left, front row) Lillian Coles, Hope Rice, Brynn Eyler; (middle row) Ava Clester, Katelyn Anderson, Isabelle Coles, Valerie Sexton; (back row) Mrs. Shari Austin, Zoey Green, Jersey Ryder, Elizabeth Hahn, Lilah Dorsey, and Ms. Konnar Miller.

Theresa Dardanell

Crime busters, bottle rockets, hovercraft, food science, and disease detectives were only a few of the events at the recent Maryland Science Olympiad competitions. After weekly practice sessions, fourteen Thurmont Middle School students participated in the Oakdale High School county tournament and the University of Maryland Central Regional Tournament.

The Maryland Science Olympiad, with competitions in biology, earth science, chemistry, physics and technology, is a  program that encourages teamwork and cooperation, makes science fun, and, hopefully, gets students interested in pursuing careers in science- and technology-related fields.

The competition includes three types of events. Lab-based events require teams to complete a lab activity. Research events encourage students to prepare materials in advance and use them during the event. In the engineering events, students build a device, such as a rocket or robot, to accomplish a task, and the device is tested during the competition. The purpose of the “Mission Possible” competition is to design and build a device that completes a required task. In the “Optics” event, teams are tested on their knowledge of light and angles for a laser-shoot competition.

Sixth grade student, Joey Valcarcel, said that “Experimental Design” was his favorite event, because he enjoys a challenge.

Science teacher, Susan Mize, along with assistant coaches, Melissa Carter (chemist/biologist at Fort Detrick) and Jesse Love (retired nuclear engineer from Bechtel), as well as Catoctin High School student, Eamonn Law-Knotts, prepared the students for the competition during weekly practices. Mize said that the students did a great job at the University of Maryland Regional Competition. Teams were awarded first place in “Disease Detectives,” “Write It Do It,” and “Scrambler,” in their division and also placed in eight other events.

Pictured are: (front row) Seth McBee, Ana Morlier, Landon Scheetz, Quinn Law-Knotts; (middle row) Ethan Condon, Ava Morlier, Jenna Zentz, Joey Valcarcel, Science Teacher Susan Mize; (back row) Mr. Jesse Love, Abigayle Bowley, Kyle Dutrow, Kendall Abruzzese, Alaina Tuttle, Sophia De Gennaro, and Eamonn Law-Knotts (CHS volunteer). Unavailable for photo: Student Dustin Zimmerman and Assistant Coach Melissa Carter.

Theresa Dardanell

Congratulations to Lewistown Elementary student Joanna Genemans, who will represent the school at the 2017 Frederick County Spelling Bee on March 11, 2017, at Frederick Community College. The winner of that competition will participate in the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The Lewistown PTA sponsored an after-school Spelling Club for students in grades first through fifth. Jennifer Sunday and Julie Chappell worked with students weekly, from November until the Spelling Bee on January 18. They discussed strategies and played spelling games. Fourth-grade student Joanna Genemans was the overall winner; the winners from each grade level were: Emily Feaster (first grade); Kali Chappell (second grade); Lena Bussard (third grade); and Riley Robinson (fifth grade). Lena will attend the Frederick County competition as an alternate.

Lewistown spelling bee winners: Emily Feaster, Kali Chappell, Lena Bussard, Joanna Genemans, and Riley Robinson.

What a great “Learning Lunch” for the fourth and fifth grade girls at Lewistown Elementary School on January 11, 2017. Guidance Counselor  Greta Nettleton sets up different learning  lunches for students throughout the year. Priya Tandon from Oakdale High and Jordan Bramhall from Middletown High, both winners of the Distinguished Young Women of Frederick County Scholarship Program, presented a lesson on RESPECT for self and others. A tube of toothpaste was used to represent words and actions that you can’t take back once they are let out. Joanna Genemens is seen (above) trying to get the “words and actions” back into the tube.

In addition to speaking to elementary school children, Jordan and Priya have done multiple talks to middle school kids about the importance of staying in school, what a transcript looks like, what to expect in high school, as well as how to prepare for college and life after college. It is all part of the Distinguished Young Women Scholarship Program, which is a national scholarship program that rewards high school juniors and seniors who exhibit excellence in academics, leadership and talent.


Pictured from left are Priya Tandon, Oakdale High; Joanna Genemans, Lewistown Elementary; and Jordan Bramhall, Middletown High

The Emmitsburg Elementary School PTA is offering one Wanda Severance scholarship for $300 to a graduating Catoctin High School (CHS) senior. Requirements are: (1) Attended Emmitsburg Elementary School a minimum of one-full year (K-5); (2) Include a letter of recommendation from either a high school or community-related person (i.e. teacher, counselor, employer, clergy, activity coach); (3) Received an overall 2.85 GPA for four years of high school (verified by the school’s guidance office); (4) Acceptance by any accredited two- or four-year college or technical school; (5) Brief, one-page essay on how your experience at Emmitsburg Elementary School prepared you for your future.  Submit completed application to: Scholarship Committee, Emmitsburg Elementary School PTA, 300 South Seton Avenue, Emmitsburg, MD 21727. Forward applications on or before April 3, 2017. The announcement will be made at the CHS awards ceremony.

The scholarship award must be used in the first year after graduating from high school and is non-renewable.

The scholarship funds will be disbursed upon receipt of a certificate of full-time student enrollment, sent to the Emmitsburg Elementary School PTA, by the registrar’s office of the educational institution he or she chooses to attend.

Each year, senior and freshman class members at Catoctin High School (CHS) are invited to the school’s annual Distinguished Graduate Honoree Induction Ceremony that takes place during school. The Distinguished Graduate Organization, made up of retired and current CHS staff members, started the program last year as a means to show students their potential by allowing them to meet and hear about former graduates of CHS who have made a significant impact on others. One graduate is recognized each year in the categories of Academics, Arts & Humanities, Athletics, Business, Public Service, and former Catoctin Staff Members.

On November 22, 2016, the ceremony was held. The National Anthem was sung by Mr. Richard Troxell, Lily Bean made introductions, and CHS Principal Bernard Quesada gave opening remarks. Current ninth and twelfth grade students introduced each of the inductees.

Tyler Jessee introduced the Former Catoctin Staff Member Honoree, Ann Bonitatibus. Dr. Bonitatibus began her career as an English and math teacher at Middletown High School, then became assistant principal at Frederick and TJ High Schools. She advanced to become principal at New Market Middle, then principal at Catoctin High from 2001-2005. Before being appointed superintendent for the Conejo Valley Unified School District in California in July of 2015, she served several roles within the Frederick County Public Schools system, including director of High Schools, associate superintendent of Secondary Schools, and chief operating officer. Through all of these diverse roles, she created forward-focused visions that were supported by school communities.

Dr. Bonitatibus talked about her experiences at Catoctin, in relation to other jobs she’s held. She shared a timely message about freedom of expression, which was relevant to current times, with the presidential elections taking place.

Phoenix Staub introduced Academics Inductee Joshua Ballew, Catoctin Class of 2003. Dr. Ballew is one smart man! He graduated valedictorian for his graduating class, was awarded the Outstanding Senior Scholar award his senior year, and named a Maryland Distinguished Scholar finalist and National Merit Commended Scholar. He graduated summa cum laude from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, with a bachelor’s degree and a double major in mathematics and physics in 2007. He served as a teaching assistant in the Department of Mathematics and earned departmental awards in both the physics and mathematics departments. He was inducted into the college’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter.

He continued his education by earning his PhD from the University of Maryland College Park in Applied Mathematics and Statistics and Scientific Computation, with his dissertation entitled Mathematical Topics in Fluid Particle Interaction. He is currently a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University, where he continues his research into fluid-particle interaction models and teaches various college math courses. Dr. Ballew has been published in several peer-reviewed journals. Interestingly, he’s written questions for the Frederick County Academic Tournament.

A humble man, Dr. Ballew talked to the students about his time at Catoctin, and his experiences throughout his education.

Taylor Crum introduced the Public Service Honoree, James “Jim” K. Hamrick, CHS Class of 1981. Jim and his wife, Pamela, reside in Thurmont and enjoy visits from their four grown children and six growing young granddaughters. Jim and Pam enjoy “two-wheel therapy,” while riding motorcycles and participating in the charitable Hogs and Heroes Motorcycle Foundation of America.

While attending the University of Maryland as an engineering student, Jim opted for a vocational change to law enforcement. He began this career as a University of Maryland Police Officer, graduating the police academy in 1985. Over the next twenty-five years, he rose in rank to Major and obtained a B.S. degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Maryland in 2000. In February of 2011, Jim was hired as the chief administrative officer at the Maryland police and Correctional Training Commissions in Sykesville, Maryland. As of July 2016, he now serves as the chief of police at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland.

Outside of law enforcement, Jim is involved in the community. He is a life member and Chaplain of both the Guardian Hose Company and the Thurmont Community Ambulance Service. He served for several years as a founding member of the Board of Directors of The Source Christian Radio AM 1450, WTHU. Jim is also an ordained pastor, and the founding pastor of St. John the Baptist Antiochian Orthodox Church in Lewistown.

Jim’s message to the students was that life is full of twists and turns, but living in service is a very fulfilling path.

Owen Bubczyk introduced the Athletics Inductee, Kathy Messner Stevens, CHS Class of 1998. Kathy is a true inspiration. Two weeks after graduating from Catoctin, she was driving a vehicle that was hit from behind and pushed into the on-going path of a tractor trailer. The near-fatal auto accident almost left her paralyzed. It is truly awesome to listen to the experiences of this great athlete, who transferred her drive to succeed into a drive to survive and thrive. The physical devastation of the auto accident could only be met head-on with true grit and faith as she battled to recover from a broken neck, fractured back, ruptured spleen, and punctured lung, among other injuries.

Prior to the accident, Kathy was a champion athlete: a two-time national high jump champion; twelve-time Maryland State Champion; county champion; and held MVAL, regional, and championship titles. To this day, she holds state records for high jump and triple jump.

Before the accident, she had earned a full athletic scholarship to Penn State University. After intense rehabilitation and physical therapy, Kathy joined the Penn State Track and Field team seven months after her accident. She competed all four years, and served as team captain her senior year. She met, or bettered, her high school performances in the jumping events and earned the Nittany Lion True Grit Award.

In 2012, she was inducted into the Alvin G. Quinn Frederick County Sports Hall of Fame. She is currently a private coach, and assists at Oakdale High School. She has also coached for the Catoctin Youth Association and Catoctin High School

Kathy’s degree from Penn State was in Kinesiology. She’s currently earning her Master’s Degree in transpersonal psychology from Atlantic University. She owns her own hypnotherapy and massage business, Transform & Revive, LLC in Woodsboro, Maryland.

Kathy’s message to the students was very inspirational, siting faith and the unwavering support of her mother and her late father to sustain the “true grit” she exemplifies in her achievements. Kathy has a nine-year-old son, Zachary Evan.

Adam Fields introduced the Business Inductee, Deb Abraham Spalding. A common path for graduates of CHS may be to attend Frederick Community College and then move on to a four-year college. Deb did this, graduating from Towson State University with a B.S. in Physical Education and concentration in sports management. That degree allowed her to pursue the profession of providing recreation services, which she did while serving as recreation superintendent with Frederick County Parks and Recreation.

In 2003, she resigned from Parks and Recreation to start her own business. She is currently the publisher and owner of the local newspaper, The Catoctin Banner, and owner of E Plus Copy Center and Promotions in Emmitsburg. She has also coached field hockey and basketball for various organizations.

Deb related to the students by identifying similarities they all experience as students at Catoctin. While a student at Catoctin, Deb was vice president of her sophomore class and president of her junior class. She played field hockey, basketball, and tennis, and participated in chorus and school musicals. She was raised on the mountain in Foxville, attended Sabillasville Elementary School, and then Thurmont Middle School.

She is a graduate of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Frederick County Program, attended Oglebay School of Management, and completed coursework towards a Master’s degree in Parks and Recreation Management at Frostburg University.

She has two children, Lydia (CHS Class of 2015) and Hayden (current CHS junior) and lives in Thurmont.

Hannah Belt introduced the Arts & Humanities Inductee, the greatly talented, internationally-known lyric tenor, Richard Troxell, Class of 1979. Richard has been thrilling audiences with his beautiful voice in leading roles in opera houses and on concert stages around the world.

His career skyrocketed when he appeared as Pinkerton in Martin Scorcese’s film version of Madame Butterfly in 1996. Not your normal opera singer, Richard’s career has ranged from being a recurring guest on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to climbing out of the sewers of Seville as Don Jose at Sydney Opera House in Carmen, to singing the National Anthem for Major League Baseball games to completing his latest CD, Classic Broadway.

In October of 2015, Richard sang and danced his way on to the stage of the Metropolitan Opera, debuting in Michael Mayer’s “Rat Pack” production of Rigoletto while at the same time covering the road of Der Maler in Lulu and Alfred in Die Fledermaus.

Richard started singing at the age of four, along with his parents, belting out Broadway tunes at Lions Club benefits and singing hymns in the church choir. He received his operatic training at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He currently resides in the countryside of Chester County, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Lisa Lovelace, who is a dancer and choreographer, and their two sons, Wilder and Shane.

His message to the students was that you can achieve anything you set your mind to. Catoctin is a great place to start.

For more information about his program or to submit the name of a nomination for a future distinguished graduate, please email Keith Bruck at


The 2016 Distinguished Graduates are: (from left) Deb Abraham Spalding, Business Honoree; Dr. Ann Bonitatibus, Staff Honoree; Richard Troxell, Arts & Humanities Honoree; Kathy Messner Stevens, Athletics Honoree; James Hamrick, Public Service Honoree; and Joshua Ballew, Academics Honoree.

Theresa Dardanell

On November 18, 2016, Mother Nature gave Thurmont Elementary students a perfect autumn day to hold their ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new playground and to share a message of kindness. All of the students and staff were joined by parents, PTA members, and a large group of visitors. The playground was funded by Frederick County Public Schools and installed by Playground Specialists, Inc.

Principal Christina McKeever began the ceremony by introducing some of the guests who played a role in making this playground possible. Frederick County Public Schools representatives included: Dr. Alban, Superintendent; Dr. Markoe, Deputy Superintendent; Ray Barnes, Chief Operating Officer; James Hitchner, Curriculum Specialist; Mark Pritts, Director.  Also present were: PTA members, Traci Tatum, Kristen Daly, Jan Jones, Tina Rippeon, and Sherri Eichelberger; Wes Hamrick, Thurmont Commissioner; Theresa Dardanell, The Catoctin Banner; former Guidance Counselor Elizabeth Myers; and representatives from Playground Specialists, Inc.  “Thank you” banners made by the students were presented to the guests. The visitors joined together to cut the ceremonial ribbon, and the playground was officially ready to be enjoyed.

Singing and dancing were a big part of the occasion. In addition to singing the school song, the students enthusiastically performed the Dance for Kindness. The organization, Life Vest Inside, provided the song “Keys to the World” and the choreography for the dance, which promotes acts of kindness.


Thurmont Elementary students, along with Superintendent Dr. Alban, on the new playground. In addition to the slides, there are many other pieces for climbing, spinning and balancing.