Ballenger Creek Middle student helps those in need

Posted Friday, April 08, 2016

Ballenger Creek Middle eighth grade student Jackson LeBlanc meets Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and discusses the Backpack Buddies initiative he started at his school.
Ballenger Creek Middle eighth grade student Jackson LeBlanc meets Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and discusses the Backpack Buddies initiative he started at his school.

FREDERICK -- Last month, Ballenger Creek Middle eighth grader Jackson LeBlanc, dressed in his tan Boy Scouts uniform, arrived at Baltimore Coffee & Tea in Frederick and awaited an important visitor.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan would be there, greeting Frederick County residents who have made a difference in their community.

Jackson definitely qualifies.

Focused on community service, Jackson is a willing organizer. He assists those in need whenever he can.

This brings us to why Jackson earned a meeting with the Gov. Hogan. Jackson is the driving force behind Ballenger Creek Middle’s Backpack Buddies program. The program supports Blessings in a Backpack, which provides weekend backpacks of food to children who would otherwise go hungry.

Backpack Buddies helps the Frederick chapter of Blessings in a Backpack gather nonperishable food. And Jackson can rattle off a list of desired nonperishables: canned tuna fish, ravioli, boxes of macaroni and cheese and kidney beans.

“I’ve learned a lot of kids go hungry on the weekends,” Jackson said. “This gives them the opportunity to have what they need. It can really help.”

Gov. Hogan gave Jackson a medal for the initiative and listened as Jackson explained how the program assists students.

Jackson started the Backpack Buddies program at Ballenger Creek Middle to assist students in need who attend nearby Orchard Grove Elementary. You can see signs of progress throughout the school.

In the front office, boxes of macaroni and cheese and kidney beans are stacked on top of a shelf. In the cafeteria, a laminated Backpack Buddies promotional poster is posted on a back wall just behind where students gather daily for lunch. In the hallways, Jackson and his friends have created promotional posters for the initiative.

“Be a Superhero. Donate food,” is the message on one poster taped above lockers.

“We are so thrilled for Jackson and will be supporting him 100 percent in his efforts,” Ballenger Creek Middle principal Mita Badshah said.

The school is leading a food drive this month and is accepting nonperishable goods. For the second consecutive year, Jackson will be promoting awareness for the initiative at the Cupcake Run 5k at Monocacy Village Park April 17.

A portion of the net proceeds goes to Blessings In a Backpack. Jackson plans on running.

And he’s not stopping there.

After departing Ballenger Creek Middle later this year, he plans on starting a Backpack Buddies program at Tuscarora High. He is also helping kick-start Backpack Buddies programs at other FCPS schools. Backpack Buddies is going national this summer.

When Jackson leaves Ballenger Creek Middle, the program will continue. He is prepping sixth grader Conner Hughes to lead the initiative for the next two years.

Backpack Buddies is extra work for a middle school student with a busy schedule. But he says it’s a project definitely worth continuing. He believes community service is important. 

“I always like to help people,” Jackson said.

-- Brandon Oland

Tags: Backpack Buddies , Ballenger Creek Middle , Blessings in a Backpack , FCPS , Jackson LeBlanc

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Middletown High student uses video to showcase students

Posted Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Every once in awhile, our Communication Services division will hear about a creative video featuring a Middletown High student or initiative.

So we watch.

What do we see? Slick graphics. Excellent production. Creative storytelling.

The videos are all created by one student: Middletown High senior Kevin Swann. He has profiled school musicians. He has created a video explaining how students should conduct themselves at extracurricular events. He has promoted his school and his fellow students extremely well.

Kevin has started his own multimedia business, Kevin Swann Studios. He has his own YouTube page and his own website.

A few weeks ago, Kevin sent us a direct message via Twitter to let us know about his latest project: A feature on Middletown High freshman Samantha Johnson, a.k.a. Sammie J, an aspiring singer-songwriter.

Not surprisingly, his video was excellent:


We remembered Kevin for his 2015 video profiling Middletown High classmate Abbe Pannucci, a cancer survivor who earned a second-degree black belt in Taekwondo:

Kevin also will promote important initiatives. When Middletown High needed a video to show students how to properly conduct themselves at extracurricular events, they turned to Kevin:

He created an interesting feature about how Middletown High bioengineering students are trying to save bees:


So a salute to Kevin, a student using his talents to showcase others. We can't wait to see what he comes up with next.

Tags: Kevin Swann , Middletown High , video

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King Celebration honors students

Posted Friday, January 15, 2016

The auditorium at Gov. Thomas Johnson High was full of proud parents, principals, students and faculty for the 26th annual King Celebration Jan. 14.

There's no other event quite like it in FCPS. A student from each high school is honored with a King Award for demonstrating positive leadership qualities characteristic of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It brings our entire community together to honor the life of Dr. King.

This year, students from Deer Crossing, Lincoln and Walkersville Elementary Schools the Frederick Classical Charter School and the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Choir performed.


Many of our staff members Tweeted photos of King winners. Here's just a taste:

From Brunswick High:


From Middletown High:


From Linganore High:



From Frederick County Virtual School:


From Ballenger Creek Middle:


From Crestwood Middle:


From Monocacy Middle:

From New Market Middle:


From Middletown Middle:


From Windsor Knolls Middle:


From Centerville Elementary


From Carroll Manor Elementary:


From Deer Crossing Elementary:


From Glade Elementary:


From Hillcrest Elementary:


From Kemptown Elementary:


From Lewistown Elementary:


From Middletown Elementary:


From Tuscarora Elementary:


From Myersville Elementary:

From Parkway Elementary:


From Spring Ridge Elementary:




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Middletown High student is aspiring doctor

Posted Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Middletown High senior Colin Fields is a National AP Scholar Award winner.
Middletown High senior Colin Fields is a National AP Scholar Award winner.

When looking at Middletown High senior Colin Fields’ Advanced Placement exam results, three obvious conclusions can be drawn:

  1. He’s taken a lot of Advanced Placement classes (Eight. And that's just through his junior year).
  2. He’s scored a “5,” the highest possible score, on all but one of the eight Advanced Placement courses he’s taken.
  3. He scored a “4” on the other:  AP Psychology.

So what gives? Why did a student who completed eight Advanced Placement courses before his senior year get a 4 on that one?

Well, he self-taught himself AP Psychology, then took the exam to see how well he would do.

A terrific student, Fields was the recipient of the National AP Scholar Award for excellence. This award is granted to students in the United States who receive an average score of at least 4 on all AP Exams taken, and scores of 4 or higher on eight or more of these exams. Typically, this is an award presented after students complete exams after their senior year. He had fulfilled the requirement by the conclusion of his junior year.  

But Colin's academic success is only part of Colin’s story. His concern for others leaps out as much as his test scores.

Colin is an aspiring doctor. He wants to double major in biochemistry because it would one day give his patients the best quality of care.

He is Frederick County Public Schools Calendar Committee volunteer. He was part of a group tasked with the difficult task of crafting a proposed school calendar. Despite being incredibly busy, Colin wanted to serve in this volunteer role to help his fellow students. Fields said he wanted to explain to other committee members how starting school later in the summer effects Advanced Placement students negatively. His goal was to help craft a schedule that would benefit student achievement.

When he discusses his personal achievements, he often winds up talking about how he likes to help others in any way he can.

This year, Colin is taking Linear Algebra, as part of the Frederick Community College and FCPS Dual Enrollment program. He also spends part of his day at the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research. He starts smiling when he discusses how the experiments being done there could one day lead to improved treatment and, perhaps, even a cure for certain types of cancers.

Middletown High principal Lee Jeffrey called Colin an outstanding student, one who has taken advantage of nearly every challenging course offering available to FCPS students.

Colin credited his Middletown High teachers for challenging him. He feels prepared for college and is ready for the eight-year program that will be necessary for him to become a doctor.

In the meantime, Colin is extremely busy. He actually had to miss an award ceremony for his academic successes because he had an important college interview. Sometimes, double bookings are inevitable, even though he is so organized that he carefully schedules all required tasks.

He even squeezed in time to self-teach himself AP Psychology and pass the Advanced Placement exam, showcasing the discipline and inner motivation that will help him in his postgraduate life.

While Colin is still determining where he wants to attend college, his future seems as bright as the orange paint used on Middletown High banners throughout the school.

-- Brandon Oland


Tags: Advanced Placement , Colin Fields , Middletown High , NCI

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Two students helping those in need for holidays

Posted Wednesday, December 16, 2015

In just one week, FCPS students will begin winter break, which will hopefully mean opportunities to spend time with friends and families.

It's also a great time of year to give back. Without fail, we hear many stories of students going above and beyond to assist those in need each year.

This year is no different.

Two young ladies have made us proud this month.

Wolfsville Elementary student Abby Smetzer handed out Hope for the Homeless bags last weekend. She gathered supplies and goodies for the homeless in Hagerstown and then saw the project through by handing them out. Abby, 10, clearly understands the significance of assisting others, and we appreciated the Hagerstown Herald-Mail profile about her project.

Meanwhile, in Frederick, Crestwood Middle student Samantha Dionne is also assisting those in need. She founded No One Left Behind, a project where she gathered supplies for the homeless. She keeps hats, coats and blankets in her mother's car. When they spot someone who is homeless, Samantha donates some of the belongings she has collected. Recently, she stood outside Dollar Tree in Frederick and asked for donations. She quickly had more than 150 items.  We appreciated The Frederick News-Post's story about Samantha's efforts.

A salute to Abby and Samantha for thinking of their communities. There are many people in two different communities who have benefited because Abby and Samantha were willing and able to give back. 

-- Brandon Oland

Tags: Abby Smetzer , Crestwood Middle , Samantha Dionne , Wolfsville Elementary

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