In the end, they were working down to the wire, but they did it. Thirty-nine students and some very involved and supportive parents from Southampton Middle School Team 7D in Bel Air spent six months working to finish a marathon.
This is not your typical run, however. These students took on the challenge of completing 26 extra-curricular activities in academics, community service, cultural events and environmental awareness. And this June they were honored for their efforts at an awards banquet sponsored by their school’s business partner, HAR-CO Maryland Federal Credit Union, Harford County’s Education Community credit union.
The program is called the Marathon of Achievement, or MOA, and it’s a way for the students to excel outside of their regular studies. Created by Southampton Team 7D teachers, the goal is to challenge students and to offer each of them a chance to be a winner. Students are given a list of possible activities; they must choose and complete 26 in six months.
“We had the most participants ever this year,” says teacher Bill Carpenter, one of the creators of MOA. “This was a great group of students. They really wanted to push themselves to do more.”
“Thinking of ways to challenge the students both academically and in terms of character education really reaches them on many levels,” explains teacher Erin O’Hara, also part of the team. “It teaches time management, to set goals and it gets the students and their families to interact more.”
It’s a big effort, but the reward is worth it. The successful students and their guests are treated to a dinner reception and medal presentation sponsored by HAR-CO Maryland Federal Credit Union.
As part of the celebration, the students enjoy a keynote speech from a celebrity role model chosen to inspire them. This year’s speaker was Julienne Irwin, America’s Got Talent finalist. Irwin, who is currently recording in Nashville and will showcase some of her songs for record company executives this summer, was impressed with the students’ efforts.
“It’s amazing to instill these values at this age,” Irwin commented. “They are such remarkable, mature young adults!” Irwin was so honored to be invited to speak, she postponed singing the National anthem for the Orioles to attend the banquet, and her advice to the students struck a chord. “Don’t ever be afraid of whatever it is you love to do,” she told the group. “Whatever your dream is, don’t be afraid. I know every one of you had an inner confidence from finishing this, and if you have that you can do whatever you want. Confidence is the most beautiful characteristic.”
All of the work must be completed outside the school day’s requirements. Some of the challenges included community service and cultural education events, writing an essay on “math in my life”, giving up TV for a full week, or creating a board game including at least 26 language arts facts. Many of the tasks focus on community service and cultural education, and motivation and time management skills quickly become critical.
Kelsey Smith started MOA strong, but she wasn’t sure she’d finish. In fact, Kelsey considered quitting, but then she decided “no, I want to keep going. Even if I don’t make it, I want to try.” So her parents stepped up to help, going so far as to do MOA activities like visiting Eden Mill on Mother’s Day. “You know, it was actually a great day,” said her mom, Marybeth Smith. In the end, Kelsey was turning in materials up until the very last moment, and was delighted to learn she had finished and would be attending the banquet. As her fellow finalist, Sarah Murphy, said, “in the end, you know that you have achieved so much. The banquet makes it real and special.”
“This event is one of the most rewarding that we do,” says DianeMoore, Marketing Specialist for HAR-CO. “These students really make a huge effort to complete these tasks, and HAR-CO is delighted to be able to support them by sponsoring a special evening to honor their achievements.”
The 2010 Marathon of Achievement Medal Recipients are:
Amanda St. Cyr