Blair student wins Service Star Award

March 25, 2004, midnight | By Allison Elvove | 16 years, 10 months ago

Student logs 2,586 hours of community service

A Blair student earned the Service Star Award presented by the Maryland Student Service Alliance at the Maryland State Department of Education (MSSA/MSDE). Every year, the MSSA honors up to two high school students in each school district to recognize their service to the community.

In a letter sent to Principal Phillip Gainous, MSSA Executive Luke Frazier wrote that award recipients "go above and beyond the statewide service-learning requirement to truly make a difference in their community."

Anne Wisniewski, User Support Specialist for non-Magnet Apple computers, had forwarded an e-mail about the award opportunity to senior Aaron Johnson, who then worked with teacher Robert Hopkins to meet the requirements to apply for the award. Johnson received a letter in the mail two weeks ago informing him he had won the award.

Johnson earned the award for his participation in a computer giveaway program called BlairConnect as well as in the Career Education Mentoring Program (CEMP) of the Blair Robot Project. He joined both programs within a month of their creation and is currently the student coordinator and president of each.

BlairConnect provides the opportunity for Blair students without Internet-capable computers at home to own one free of cost. Johnson oversees the refurbishment of older computers and installation of freeware so that Blazers can use BEN and other on-line resources.

James Distler, who teaches Exploring Technological Concepts, began CEMP several years ago. In 2001, Johnson became the program's leader before the end of its first year. He organized Blair students interested in Legos to create challenges for elementary- and middle-school students, who would later participate in a yearly competition also planned by Johnson. CEMP works mainly with Blair's feeder schools while the Tech Challenge, that will take place on Friday, March 26, involves local middle schools.

The Maryland Service-Learning Leadership Recognition awards reception will take place in late April at the U.S. Naval Academy Officers & Faculty Club. Johnson hopes the current Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele will attend as then-Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend did in 2001.

Johnson, who has completed at least 2,586 hours of student service learning (SSL) credits, thinks the purpose of the award is "to increase student involvement in the SSL organization and not to just make it a requirement for graduation but to get really into it."

Johnson said he has committed himself to these projects because he loves technology. "I enjoy working with computers, and I really got into the organization behind it."

He has achieved far above the requirement to receive the 260-hour certificate of merit given by Montgomery County. Report cards can only display a total of 999 hours, which is what his reads. "By now it is probably more like 2,800, but I have no reason to keep careful track of them," said Johnson.

He does not see SSL hours as an objective but more as opportunity to give back to the community. "I'm not working towards 'more hours' but just to accomplish more. If everyone in the community had good working computers, I would stop working on the giveaway program. Until that happens, I'll continue to work on that program."

After high school, Johnson hopes to become involved in local groups and college organizations to continue the Lego robotics and computer-giveaway programs. For students who are not as excited about meeting Montgomery County SSL requirements, Johnson said that community projects are good opportunities to bond with friends. "It's a great way to spend some free time," Johnson added.

If students without Internet-capable computers in their home are interested in BlairConnect, they can sign up through their teachers or talk with Susan Madden in the Media Center. There is no waiting list due to the large supply of computers.

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Allison Elvove. Allison Elvove was a Co-Editor-in-Chief of Silver Chips Online during the 2004-2005 school year. She wrote more than 70 articles while on the staff and supervised 40 student journalists, editing articles on a daily basis. During her time as editor, Silver Chips Online won the … More »

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