Beware of ‘Energy Vampires’ Hiding in Your Home this Halloween

— Watch out for ‘energy vampires’ in your home this Halloween! BGE reminds customers to practice a few simple efficiency tips that can help them save energy and money and avoid falling victim to these vampires.

Vampire energy, also known as standby energy, is the energy drawn from outlets by plugged in equipment that is off. Many types of electronics and office equipment, including televisions, cell phones, computers, printers, game consoles, and more continue to draw electricity when they are plugged in and turned off.

Take a bite out of energy vampires by following these simple tips:

  • Use a power strip with an on/off switch to completely power down electronics around your home.
  • Unplug your mobile phone charger, portable music player or other electronics once they are fully charged.
  • Turn off all the lights when you leave the room.
  • When preparing for out-of-town travel, always unplug all nonessential devices.

Look for the ENERGY STAR® label on home appliances, electronics and other products. ENERGY STAR® products meet strict efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Discover where energy vampires may be haunting your home by scheduling BGE’s Quick Home Energy Check-up. When you schedule a check-up, one of our energy efficiency professionals will come to your home and check the condition of its insulation, heating and air cooling system, lighting, appliances and more to identify simple ways to help you save energy and money!

Looking for customized solutions to help you save energy and money? BGE also offers rebates for home efficiency improvements through the BGE Smart Energy Savers Program®.

The BGE Smart Energy Savers Program is a suite of programs that enable customers to control energy use, leading to more efficient use of electricity and lowering energy bills. The programs have provided $537 million in rebates to BGE customers and have also helped nearly 2.2 million residential and business participants save nearly 3.6 million MWh of electricity. Collectively, the programs help contain the cost of energy and improve reliability by reducing peak demand and slowing the growth in energy consumption. Energy-saving solutions are available to renters, homeowners, large and small business customers, nonprofits and institutional customers. More information can be found at BGESmartEnergy.com. EmPOWER Maryland programs are funded by a charge on your energy bill. EmPOWER programs can help you reduce your energy consumption and save you money. To learn more about EmPOWER and how you can participate, go to BGESmartEnergy.com.

Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention Offers Halloween Safety Tips

— It’s the week of Halloween and you knew it had to happen. The Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP) has a list of Halloween safety tips to keep your little Fortnite character, Superman, unicorn, mermaid and dinosaur safe.

“We hate to be the ones to let the air out of the fun balloon, but there are things parents and children need to know before heading out for a fun evening of trick-or-treating,” said V. Glenn Fueston, Jr., Executive Director of GOCCP. “These are just a simple list of things to know before you go.”

Try your costume on before you go Trick-or-Treating; it should be light-colored and short enough that you don’t trip on it. You can decorate the costume with reflective tape or stickers so you can easily be seen at night.

  • Wear comfy shoes and make sure your laces are double-knotted to avoid tripping.
  • Avoid masks that make it hard to see your surroundings. Makeup is a good stand in for a mask.
  • Make a map of your trick-or-treating route before you head out. Have a copy handy and make sure your parents have a copy.
  • Only stop at well-lit houses. Never go inside a stranger’s house; only accept treats in the doorway.
  • Stay on the sidewalk. If there is not a sidewalk available, walk facing oncoming traffic and keep a safe distance between you and the cars.
  • Stay away from jack-o-lanterns and candles while you are wearing your costume.
  • Make sure that your costume is made of a flame-retardant material. Go over the “Stop, Drop and Roll” routine before going trick-or-treating just in case.
  • Never trick-or-treat alone! Make sure you have at least two buddies to go with you.
  • Only cross the street at corners after looking both ways.
  • Never run between parked cars or crisscross back and forth across the street.
  • Carry a watch, flashlight, glow stick and cell phone if possible.
  • Agree on a time when you will be home – if you are going to be late, call your parents.
  • Always have a parent check your candy before you eat it.

Finally, visit this site for important safety information.

Halloween tips are part of 31 days of tips GOCCP is using to mark National Crime Prevention Month, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Anti-bullying/Cyberbullying Awareness Month, and National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. All month long, the agency is using its social media channels to post daily tips to help keep Marylanders safe. The hashtags used are #ASaferMD, #TipADay, #CrimePrevention.

Baltimore Teacher Sets Sail on Pacific Northwest Research Cruise

Justin Garritt, a math teacher at KIPP Ujima Village Academy in Baltimore has returned from a journey that he believes will enhance his teaching experience and that of his students.

Garritt set sail to assist scientists on a 12-day Pacific Hake Survey in the Pacific Northwest where he participated as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Teacher at Sea program that bridges science and education through real-world research experiences.

“Through my two-week NOAA research cruise on the Pacific Ocean, my students will be able to learn first-hand about exciting projects being done to sustain our precious environment,” Garritt said of the journey that began on September 3, 2018. “Students will learn grade-level material by applying skills and concepts to real-life challenges from my trip. I am confident and excited that my student investment in my sixth grade statistics unit will be at an all-time high.”

Garritt boarded NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada in Seattle, Washington, and worked with scientists daily as they conducted an ongoing survey of Pacific Hake populations off the coast of Washington and Oregon. He also wrote a blog detailing his experience.

“Our students spend a significantly longer portion of their school year in math compared to science. Many of our world’s most important problems require amazing and informed scientists and our kids have to be a part of those solutions,” Garritt said. “As a mathematics teacher who has the privilege of having my students for double the time of our science team, it is crucial that I make cross-curricular connections to science in my classroom. As a lifelong learner, being aboard a NOAA ship allowed me the chance to investigate new and creative ways to infuse all the research I will be doing into my curriculum.”

Now in its 28th year, the Teacher at Sea program has provided nearly 750 teachers the opportunity to gain first-hand experience participating in science at sea, according to a news release.

This year, NOAA received applications from nearly 300 teachers and 35 were chosen to participate in research cruises. The educators live and work side-by-side with scientists studying the marine environment.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine resources, officials said.

Justin Garritt calibrating the research equipment in the Port of Seattle aboard NOAA Bell A.  Shimada.

Courtesy Photo

Justin Garritt calibrating the research equipment in the Port of Seattle aboard NOAA Bell A. Shimada.

“This experience was one of the best of my professional career. I felt so intellectually stimulated learning about something I knew so little about,” Garritt said.

“I felt like I went back to college and starting over learning a brand new subject. For twelve hours a day I was learning, reflecting, and writing my blog.”

Throughout the experience, Garritt said he learned how to use the acoustic transducers that analyze the fish patterns below the surface. He also learned the process for surveying the Pacific hake population and how scientists collect data and analyze it.

Further, Garritt learned how the NOAA makes decision on the number of fish that commercial fisherman are allowed to catch; how dissect hake; what life is like for the crew aboard the vessels; and what life was like for scientists who spend their lives working to protect natural resources.

“After two weeks learning on the research cruise I decided to begin rewriting many of my statistics lessons from the city’s math curriculum, Eureka Math, so they involve the same standards and types of rigorous questions but involve the application of the data from my experience,” Garritt said.

Justin Garritt analyzing a pile of krill that was caught outside of the Port of Newport

Courtesy Photo

Justin Garritt analyzing a pile of krill that was caught outside of the Port of Newport

“This will not only blend math and science knowledge, but will increase student investment. I can’t wait for students at my school to see me working among the most talented scientists in the world doing real life important science work.

“I can’t wait for them to picture themselves someday working as scientists with NOAA and solving our world’s most important problems that involve our precious environment. I can’t wait for my students to get excited when learning statistics, scaling and ratios— actual data I collected while sailing in the Pacific Northwest.”

Garritt’s blog about the program can be viewed at https://noaateacheratsea.blog/author/jgarritt2018

Breast Health 101

Breast Cancer Awareness month provides a prime opportunity to begin a dialogue about breast health. Breast cancer remains one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in American women with studies showing that one in eight women has a chance of developing breast cancer at some point in her lifetime. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2018, 268,670 women will be diagnosed with a new breast cancer with 13 percent of these new diagnoses in the state of Maryland. With more screening and improved imaging techniques, breast cancers are being detected at an earlier stage, allowing patients to live longer, disease-free lives.

Even with these advances in the treatment of breast cancer, there still remains disparities in survival outcomes between racial groups. While the incidence of a breast cancer is growing increasingly similar between white and black women, black women continue to be diagnosed with a later stage of disease and have a higher rate of breast cancer-related death. This stark difference is even more present here in Baltimore where, in 2014, African- American women had a mortality rate 1.5 times that of the national average, placing us seventh in the nation in breast cancer mortality. It is more important than ever to ensure that all groups have the same access to education and treatment for what is now a survivable disease. Here are some ways that you can become an advocate for your breast health:

Healthy Living— Studies have shown that certain lifestyle choices may influence your risk for developing breast cancer. Reducing your alcohol intake, stopping smoking and maintaining an active lifestyle are examples of ways you can help reduce your risk for developing breast cancer.

Know Your Risk— It is important that individuals know their personal risk of developing breast cancer. Certain risk factors such as age, African- American race, breast-feeding history and hormone exposure may increase your risk. Take the time to determine if close family members have a history of specific cancers that may qualify you for genetic testing or screening mammograms before the age of 40. Ten percent of all breast cancers can be attributed to a genetic mutation. Cancers of this sort often present at an earlier age and with more aggressive features. Recognizing these patterns in your family may help to detect cancers at an earlier stage or even highlight the need for measures to reduce your risk.

Know Your Breasts— While studies have shown that self-breast exams do not increase the ability to detect a new breast cancer, there is still some benefit to regular self-breast exams. You may experience fibrocystic changes to the breast around your menstrual cycle. Having a baseline assessment of your breasts will allow you to better inform your doctor of any new findings that arise.

Get Screened— Consensus guidelines from the American Society of Breast Surgeons and other organizations recommend that all women begin yearly screening mammograms at the age of 40. While there are varying recommendations as to when to start having mammograms as well as how often to have them, it is important you and your doctor develop a clear plan based on your individual risk. Depending on the individual case, additional types of screening such as ultrasound or MRI may be considered.

Breast cancer in the modern era has become a treatable disease with excellent survival outcomes when discovered at an early stage. You need to know your personal risk so you and your doctor can determine the best screening practices for you. Remember, early detection is key!

For more information about the breast team at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, visit our website at https://www.umms.org/umgccc/cancer-services/cancer-types/breast.

More Volunteers Needed As Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival Continues To Grow

On September 29, 2018, eclectic bands, energetic dancers, talented actors, skilled drummers, performers, conscious poets, vendors and community organizations gathered to celebrate the cultural heritage of the African diaspora in both traditional and new ways at he Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival at the City Dock in Annapolis.

The Annapolis Drum & Bugle Corps kicked off the festivities as a host of officials and stakeholders made a grand entrance behind them. When they reached Susan Campbell Park, Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley helped to pass out rose petals to attendees who then threw them into the water to honor loved ones. A short time later, Terrell Freeman continued the tradition of ancestral remembrance through leading a libation ceremony and serving as the event’s emcee.

“We are in for a beautiful day of entertainment,” said Freeman during the official welcome. “Keeping this on line and in point, we are going to move right on into our libations to give praise and due to our ancestors and our creator, and make sure that we are grounded today, for a great celebration today of our heritage, of our city, of our people.”

Tour buses filled with people from N.J. and N.Y. returned to experience another cultural celebration in Annapolis. This year, approximately 8,000 festivalgoers showed up to enjoy festivities on a beautiful rain-free day.

Local kid rapper, “Young Dylan,” who has appeared numerous times on The Ellen Show; and Sim the Poet were headliners at this year’s event. Youth entrepreneurs showed up to sell jewelry, books, accessories, t-shirts and other items. Once again, The Clones of Funk placed a finishing touch on a busy day by delivering pulsating musical beats, which inspired hand clapping and dancing. The group is often known for officially ending fun and fellowship, during the annual festival.

The Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival Chairperson Jan F. Lee pointed out that last year’s turnout was approximately 5,000 attendees; and this year’s turn out was approximately 8000— the primary goal of increasing attendance was indeed accomplished.

Longtime festival volunteer Danielle Young says that the presence of young entrepreneurs this year was very welcome and hopes that it will continue. She also pointed out that the increased community participation made the festival so much better.

“It felt like the old days. We had an amazing turnout,” Young said. “The support that we received from the community, the vendors and the festival committee was more than I could have ever imagined.”

While looking toward the future, Lee says she will continue her leadership role.

“For next year, we are looking to add some key roles to the team. We are gearing up for the 30th Annual Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival and we need more manpower! Positions available include Vice-Chair, Hospitality Committee Chair, and Sponsorship/Fundraiser Chair,” Lee said. “We are volunteer staff, so we are looking for passionate, motivated people who want to give back to their community and support this wonderful legacy.”

Community Organizations Launch ‘One Book Baltimore’ Initiative Citywide

— More than 10 local organizations have come together to collaborate on “One Book Baltimore,” a new citywide initiative designed to provide opportunities for students, families and community members to connect through literature by reading the same book.

This year’s book is “Dear Martin” by Nic Stone. Launched at the Baltimore Book Festival last month, discussions and programming will be held across the city focused on the initiative’s themes of peace and anti-violence. Baltimore City Public Schools 7th and 8th-grade students will receive free copies of the book, and additional copies are available for check-out at all Enoch Pratt Free Library locations.

“Dear Martin’ follows its protagonist, Justyce McAllister, a young black teen, through his senior year of high school as he grapples with issues of race and identity through a series of journal entries addressed to Dr. Martin Luther King. The book was selected with input from students, teachers, librarians, and other Baltimore community members. By choosing a gritty narrative that explicitly deals with peace, anti-violence, and racial equity, One Book Baltimore’s collaborators hope that individuals may engage in meaningful open dialogue about their experiences and the challenges facing our communities, and that they may ultimately see a new path for themselves.

“To know that children— and adults— across the City of Baltimore will be reading and engaging with Dear Martin is an honor beyond measure, said author Nic Stone, about her book being a part of the One Book Baltimore initiative. “It is my deepest hope that slipping into Justyce’s shoes will open eyes and minds in a way that will move the world we inhabit a bit closer to that of Dr. King’s Dream.”

The idea for this initiative emerged from conversations among several local leaders in the wake of the social unrest in Baltimore that followed the death of Freddie Gray.

“We saw that other cities had used family literacy efforts to bring communities together and foster meaningful conversation,” said John Brothers, president of the T. Rowe Price Foundation.

Special programs tied to the book and themes of peace and anti-violence are scheduled through out the fall at Pratt Library locations across the city, including: community discussions about Dear Martin led by the Pratt’s Community Youth Corps, and a collaboration with the Media Rhythm Institute. There will be series of One Book Baltimore activities at every Pratt Library location during the Baltimore Ceasefire weekend scheduled for November 2-4, 2018.

Stone return to Baltimore to talk with City School’s students and for a discussion at the Pratt’s Northwood branch on Wednesday, December 12. Additional details on One Book Baltimore programming will be posted at www.prattlibrary.org/onebook.

One Book Baltimore, is a collaboration among the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore City Public Schools, Baltimore Ceasefire 365, Maryland Humanities, Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts, Maryland Book Bank, First Book, CityLit Project, WBAL-TV, the T. Rowe Price Foundation and others.

Annapolis Hosts Annual 9/11 Heroes Run Honors Those Lost On September 11 And Wars Since

— The 2018 Travis Manion Foundation 9/11 Heroes Run in Annapolis has will be held on Sunday, October 28, 2018 at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium at 2 p.m. The annual 5K race and 1 mile Fun Run will unite the community to remember the nearly 3,000 lives lost on 9/11, as well as to honor our veterans, military, and first responders who serve our country and our communities.

The 9/11 Heroes Run 5K series was inspired by Marine 1st Lt. Travis Manion, who was killed by a sniper in Iraq in April 2007, as he selflessly protected his battalion.

Before his final deployment, Travis visited Rescue One in NYC— famous for losing almost all of their men on 9/11— and returned home with deeper passion about why he was fighting in Iraq. At its heart, the 9/11 Heroes Run is a tribute to a personal commitment to never forget the heroes of that day. Now in its 11th year, the 9/11 Heroes Run national race series will be held in more than 50 locations across the country and around the world, and is expected to draw over 60,000 participants.

For the 2018 race series, Travis Manion Foundation has partnered with GORUCK to launch a new division where participants can ruck the 9/11 Heroes Run. Rucking is simply moving with weight on your back and is the foundation of Special Forces training. It combines strength and cardio, is adaptable to anyone’s goals based on the amount of weight carried, and is a popular, empowering activity for those who hate to run or find it boring. As part of the marketing campaign for 9/11 Heroes Run series, TMF has released a video to inspire runners and walkers of all ages to participate.

During this divisive time in our country, I’m in awe at how so many communities across the country and around the world will put differences aside and coming together to honor all those touched by the events of September 11, 2001,” said Ryan Manion, President of Travis Manion Foundation. “We challenge all Americans to join us this September, to ensure our future generations never forget the sacrifices of our veterans, active duty military, first responders, and civilians who were affected by the attacks on 9/11 and in the wars since.”

For more information about the 9/11 Heroes Run or to register, visit: www.911heroesrun.org/annapolis.

High Schooler Leads Diaper Drive

These necessities are needed for infants an estimated 10 times per-day and cost an average $70 to $80 per month. For many poor or low-income families, this expense often poses a financial hardship. These items are diapers. But the efforts of high school student Lauren Eisele, the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) and the University of Maryland School of Social Work, has helped to lighten the load— financial load, that is.

Lauren, UMMC, and the University of Maryland School of Social Work all partnered to organize a drive that collected over 105,000 diapers, and 25,000 wipes. Proctor & Gamble also contributed to these efforts. The diapers and wipes were distributed to community partners on Friday, October 19, 2018 at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Central Receiving Building located at 1000 Hilltop Circle in Baltimore, Maryland..

Reflecting on a conversation with Bronwyn Mayden, MSW, assistant dean at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, 15-year-old Lauren shared how it all began.

“I wanted to do some volunteer work over the summer and asked Ms. Mayden in the UMB School of Social Work how I could help, and she told me about the urgent need for diapers and explained why,” she said. “I was so sad to know that so many families can’t afford to buy diapers and can’t use food stamps to purchase them.”

She added, “After doing some research online, I found out that this is a need all over the world and there is even a Diaper Awareness Week that occurs every September. So I set a goal to collect over 50,000 diapers.”

Lauren said she realized more help would be needed.

“After about a month, I realized that I couldn’t collect 50,000 all by myself so I asked Dr. Mohan Suntha, president and CEO of UMMC if we could promote a Diaper Drive at UMMC and he agreed. UMMC does so much to help people in the Baltimore community and I hoped that this would be a project that people would care about.”

She continued, “Once the flyer went out, diapers started coming in everyday! Employees not only wanted to donate diapers but help in any way they could to help us reach the goal. An employee even asked Proctor and Gamble to donate diapers and got a ‘yes’. The company donated 16,000 diapers and 14,000 wipes. In five weeks we brought in over 105,000 diapers and 25,000 wipes. Imagine what we can do with more time!”

According to the University of Maryland School of Social Work, one in three families must make the difficult choice between food and diapers for their baby each day.

“It made me realize how many people need help and that in a small way I could make a difference to families,” said Lauren who started the project in June. “I am so grateful for all the support that this project received and hope that many families won’t have to worry about this issue for a long while.”

When asked if she plans to continue this endeavor, Lauren replied: “Yes, babies and children need diapers all the time and I plan to continue to raise awareness. My goal is to collect 500,000 diapers by next year and with UMMC’s help as well as others in the community, we will be successful!”

Mayden also serves as executive director of Promise Heights, which seeks to improve the lives of children and families in the West Baltimore neighborhood of Upton/Druid Heights. She talked about Lauren’s efforts.

“I can’t thank Lauren enough for wanting to do something to help somebody,” said Mayden. “She put the muscle behind the idea to collect diapers which was outstanding.”

Mayden highlighted that some families cut back on basics such as food, utilities or child care to purchase diapers, while others need to leave their infants in soiled diapers for longer periods of time, leading to potential health risks.

Bronwyn Mayden MSW, assistant dean at the University of Maryland School of Social Work admiring an infant.

Bronwyn Mayden MSW, assistant dean at the University of Maryland School of Social Work admiring an infant.

Sierra Mason with her baby Saniya, along with Za’Mari and Za’Vion Nipper. They were among those in attendance at a pamper drive distribution event held at the University of Maryland Baltimore County

Sierra Mason with her baby Saniya, along with Za’Mari and Za’Vion Nipper. They were among those in attendance at a pamper drive distribution event held at the University of Maryland Baltimore County

Troy Brown holding a box of diapers during the event.

Troy Brown holding a box of diapers during the event.

“You can’t take your baby to daycare and not have a supply of diapers for the child,” she said. “Wearing diapers for long periods of time also causes Urinary Tract Infection and bad rashes. We are reaching out to B’more for Healthy Babies and Head Start Centers. We also plan to approach schools. We want to be fair to everyone and help as many babies as we can.”

Mayden added, “Lauren, UMMC, and the University of Maryland School of Social Work have started a movement. They are making a commitment to babies in Baltimore. “

For more information or to donate diapers visit www.ummsfoundation.org/diaperdrive

Dance Company Takes Debates About Inequality To The Stage

Workplace harassment, immigration, racial profiling, the wealth gap and gay marriage are among the hot-button topics, which often serve as the subject matter for newspaper stories, radio talk show programs, television newscasts, Podcasts and other forms of media communication. However, these controversial issues will soon be presented through another medium— dance.

On Saturday, November 3, 2018, Baltimore’s Full Circle Dance Company presents “Same/Difference: Inside Inequality” at the Chesapeake Arts Center in Brooklyn Park, MD. The new show centers on questions of sameness and difference, equality and inequality. Now in its 18th year, Full Circle Dance Company is one of Baltimore’s most visible professional ensembles, performing frequently throughout the region and beyond.

“Inside Equality has an amazing array of artists both as choreographers and dancers,” said Artistic Director Donna L. Jacobs who founded Full Circle Dance Company in 2000.

“They bring their own diverse set of experiences to this show. Little did we know when we selected equality as a topic how current it would be. We have a very current backdrop of issues surrounding The Supreme Court, Washington, D.C., and families with multi-religions in them. When we think about inequality in a broad way, there are so many issues touched on in this work. It is a jackpot there.

“While some people find these issues hard to talk about, we find that through the visual aspect, it brings about dialogue. This allows people who were hesitant, to now feel safe and comfortable discussing topics they found uneasy to discuss. Opening up dialogue is something that is incredibly rewarding for us and satisfying for our audience.”

The show’s gripping performances include the following pieces: The Ceiling; …skinned-deep; Dispositioned; My Story…; On Our Shoulders; Vows; and Healing the Broken System.

“The titles are glimpses into what you are about to see,” said Nicole Tucker Smith, a dancer with Full Circle Dance Company. “What I really hope is that the audience sees the humanity aspects we are exploring. We want them to become a part of the experience. We want people to come to their own conclusions, as we explore issues and concepts through dance. As a dancer, the goal is not just to do steps, but bring life and movement, so people can feel they are a part of what is happing on stage.”

Tucker Smith is the choreographer for On Our Shoulders.

“On Our Shoulders goes back to the 1800s,” said Tucker Smith. “It looks at race and religion and fighting against injustice.”

She added, “I have been dancing for 38 years, and have been dancing with this company for two years. I dance because I love it, and it is an essential part of who I am. It is very therapeutic and has helped us to explore some very challenging issues, while finding new ways towards hope.”

Hope B. Byers is a leading dancer and veteran choreographer with Full Circle Dance Company. She is the creator of…skinned deep, an exploration of colorism and its origins in slavery and white supremacy.

“We are putting our whole heart into this,” said Byers, who is performing in the piece. “This is how we perceive these issues. We feel it is important in this climate to get these issues out on the stage. It gives a different perspective though dance by providing the audience another, and very different way of looking at things.”

…skinned deep delves into discrimination within communities of color against darker skinned people.

“In recent years, I have used my choreography as a voice of activism,” said Byers. “I feel when I have an audience sitting in front of me, I can give them some meat to take home, and something to dissect and think about. Colorism is something I have explored and dealt with all my life. It is an uncomfortable issue in the African American community and other communities of color. But uncomfortable things are the things that are required for us to dig into in order for us to grow and ultimately address the things we are afraid to discuss.”

She added, “I want people to walk away from this show with something to talk about. That is my hope for this piece, and for the entire performance. I want people to leave with something tangible other than the experience of just being entertained.”

For tickets or for more information about the show: visit https://www.fullcircledancecompany.org/.

A High School Diploma With No High School

A single mother and east Ugandan refugee who wanted to beat the oldest of her six children to a high school diploma; a high school dropout who became a GED dropout because of math; a former AP Honors student who got sidetracked; and a 19-year-old who left high school to support her family.

These are just four stories from the 42 graduates who walked in the 2018 Anne Arundel County High School Diploma Student Recognition Ceremony at the Pascal Center for Performing Arts at Anne Arundel Community College’s campus on Wednesday, October 17, 2018.

“Some of our students face challenges, making it hard to get to class and stay in the program,” said Rena Burkowsky, the basic skills program manager for AACC’s School of Continuing Education and Workforce Development Adult Basic Skills Program, commonly known as Anne Arundel County Public Schools National External Diploma Program (NEDP).

Individuals who pass the GED exam or complete the NEDP earn a Maryland High School Diploma issued by the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Many enrolled in AACC’s Adult Basic Skills classes throughout the county, including the Ordnance Road Correctional Center.

“When they earn their diploma, it is due to a lot of hard work and a tremendous amount of perseverance. It’s truly amazing,” Burkowsky said.

New graduate, Wibabara Mupende was forced to leave her home in Uganda because of political issues. She arrived in America at the age of 31.

“There were many things that encouraged me to get my high school diploma, but there was one particular instance that pushed me to make that move,” Mupende said. “At work, there was an open position to be a department coordinator, to which I had all the experience needed but I failed to meet the guidelines because I could not present my high school diploma [which she lost in her family’s flight from Uganda].”

Mupende says her biggest challenge was finding a balance between home, work and school.

“It was not easy to juggle everything having six children at home, while working full-time and going to school,” she said. “I want to set an example for my children and show them that they can achieve their goals and overcome their circumstances if they work hard.”

Graduate Christina Edwards said she knew getting her diploma would open doors that were previously closed.

Christina Edwards

Nyia Curtis

Christina Edwards

“I felt like it’s what was required of me to have a better life, the calling on my life that needs to be fulfilled,” said Edwards, the oldest of five children in her family.

“I heard about the program not to long after I tried another program. I figured it would be hard, but I knew I would do whatever it took,” she said. “I want my brothers and sister to go after their dreams and say ‘I want to be like my big sister, when she gets knocked down she always gets back up, she fights and she is determined to get where she wants to be.’ I want my whole story to be heard one day, I want it to inspire people young or old.”

Ruben Guzman

Nyia Curtis

Ruben Guzman

Ruben Guzman earned his diploma after severe difficulties in math, particularly algebra.

“But, I studied every day and I finally got it,” he said. “The first time I heard about the program was when I was 20 and I went in and took the placement exam. I [couldn’t] wait to walk across that stage and, for my mom and dad to see their son walking across that stage makes me so proud,” said Guzman, who is now taking general studies courses in college.

Brianna Garton

Nyia Curtis

Brianna Garton

Brianna Garton says high school was a challenge. She had a lot of distractions at home.

“That’s when my counselors told me I could go to AACC and get caught up before I wasted too much time,” Garton said. “The primary challenge for me was accepting the fact that I had failed two classes and then dealing with everyone’s opinions about me not graduating the traditional way.”

Garton says she is driven by the fact that she didn’t have a stable home or a normal childhood.

“So school was my one-way ticket out. My education was my way out. The message I have for others is that if something is important don’t wait— graduate, get your education. You can’t help others until you’ve helped yourself.”