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Board honors outstanding students at its March 12 meeting  

The Board of Education at its March 12 meeting honored eight Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) students for their commitment to academic achievement, personal responsibility and career readiness.

Those honored included prekindergarten student Esther Locke who attends the Early Learning Center, La Plata; Andrea Garcia Rivas, a fifth grader at J.P. Ryon Elementary School; De’Veon Venerable, a third-grade student at the F.B. Gwynn Educational Center; Kassidy Kristafey Villanueva, a fifth-grade student at William A. Diggs Elementary School; Randy Kamsu, an eighth-grade student at Matthew Henson Middle School; General Smallwood Middle School eighth grader Cole Moore; Thomas Stone High School senior Scott Morrison; and Cora “Karl” Wagner, a sophomore who attends the Robert D. Stethem Educational Center

Locke, a prekindergarten student at the Early Learning Center, La Plata, was recognized for personal responsibility. She loves going to school and can be found upholding classroom commitments. “She shows adults and students exactly what personal responsibility looks like,” Candice Vallandingham-Adam, the center coordinator, said. “Her teachers can always count on her to be an amazing role model for her classmates, and her classmates can always count on her to be a good friend. For a five-year-old, Esther has such integrity. She always does the right thing, even if someone isn't watching.”

Rivas is in her first year at Ryon and has already made an impact at the school. “Andrea is a very dedicated and hardworking student who exemplifies the true definition of being kind,” Ryon Principal Nicholas Adam said. The Board recognized Rivas for career readiness as she is committed to pursuing a career in the health field hoping to become a doctor. She is a hard worker who is a graduate of the ESOL program and an honor roll student who consistently showcases her academic abilities and kindhearted personality. Outside of school she likes playing with her dog, playing Uno with her family, and spending time with her grandparents. Her favorite thing about attending Ryon is spending time with and learning from her teachers.

Venerable, a third-grade student at Gwynn displays personal responsibility in several areas and was recognized by the Board for that quality. “He is a hard-working student who wants to always do his best,” Gwynn Principal Todd Wondering said. “He is very respectful and dependable and is always willing to help his classmates. He is a problem-solver when it comes to peer disagreements.” Venerable’s favorite subject is math and he has made great gains since coming to Gwynn. Before coming to the Gwynn Center, Venerable struggled with asking for help and had difficulties with accessing appropriate coping mechanisms. He wasn’t willing to take chances. He now consistently asks for help when he needs it and uses effective coping strategies which has allowed him to focus on learning and making good choices.

Villanueva is a driven, self-motivated, witty fifth grader with a passion for learning. It makes sense that she was recognized for academic achievement as she excels in all academic areas and is taking a sixth-grade accelerated mathematics course through the CCPS Virtual Academy. She has been on the Principal’s Honor Roll every quarter since third grade. “Kassidy is not only an academic powerhouse, but she is also extremely active in clubs and organizations,” Diggs Principal Ben Harrington said. As a fourth grader, Villanueva competed in the Charles County Regional Middle School SeaPerch Competition and was a member of the team that won best overall, advancing to the International SeaPerch Competition. At the international competition, her team placed 10th in the world, according to Harrington. Villanueva is a member of the chorus at Diggs and is part of a local theater group. She is an exceptional artist and enjoys working in a variety of media. She taught herself how to code, play ukelele and uses the app Duo Lingo to learn Tagalog. Villanueva is also a champion swimmer and was the county champion in freestyle stroke and backstroke in 2021 and 2022.

Kamsu is an eighth-grade student who has maintained an exceptional 4.0 GPA throughout middle school, mastering content and maintaining high levels of excellence with a strong work ethic and diligence. He is a member of the Vex Robotics Team and is in the Henson National Junior Honor Society. Kamsu played the violin in the Tri-County Orchestra. A student leader, Kamsu displays outstanding citizenship and kindness in the classroom by creating a positive atmosphere and is always ready to assist his peers, Henson Principal Christina Caballero said. “His leadership extends beyond academics and he fosters a collaborative and supportive learning environment,” she said. “His dedication to both academic excellence and interpersonal skills makes him a standout presence in Henson’s educational community.”

An eighth grader at Smallwood, Moore has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to his studies and has shown a remarkable talent across a variety of subjects and extracurricular activities, Smallwood Principal Orlena Whatley said. These qualities led to Moore being recognized for academic achievement. He has a keen interest in literature and is currently writing a book showcasing his creativity and love of storytelling. He is an avid reader, which reflects his curiosity and intellectual engagement. Additionally, he is a musician who enjoys playing the saxophone. Moore has also shown exceptional aptitude in mathematics and science. “His teachers have noted his insightful nature and his ability to ask higher-level mathematical questions,” Whatley said. He scored in the 99th percentile in the winter I-Ready math diagnostic, posting an impressive 32-point improvement from the fall.

Morrison is a senior at Stone who was honored for personal responsibility who is able to maintain a high grade point average and strong leadership roles in and outside of school. He carries a 4.38 grade point average, taking honors courses and more than seven advanced placement (AP) classes. He is currently ranked in the top 5% of his class and is in the Project Lead the Way Pre-Engineering Program. A member of VEX Robotics Team and symphonic band, Morrison also finds time to volunteer as an audio technician for a drama production taking place at St. Mary’s Bryantown and a part time job at Five Below. “Scott’s contributions, commitment and dedication are impactful and greatly beneficial to the clubs and organizations that he participates in,” Stone’s Principal Shanif Pearl said. To further expand his education outside of the school year, Morrison completed an engineering internship last summer with the Naval Energetics Technology Apprenticeship Program.

Wagner is enrolled in the Interactive Media Production program at Stethem where she has posted honor roll grades for the first quarter and is on track to land a spot on the list again when the second marking period ends later this month. She adheres to her favorite quote, “Second place is the first loser,” a sentiment credited to the late Enzo Ferrari, the car company’s founder, and popularized by the late Dale Earnhardt, a NASCAR driver. The quote resonates with Wagner who works hard, but isn’t hard to work with, Stethem Principal Louis D’Ambrosio said. “Karl has a very good rapport with her teachers at Stethem,” he said, adding that her teacher, Stephen Gilligan, said she’s a joy to have in class. “Karl’s work in commendable,” Gilligan told D’Ambrosio. “Her understanding of color theory and the principles of design are advanced for a first-year student.” Wagner is a soccer player on a recreational team, winning awards for her athletic skills. She enjoys art and is thinking of parlaying that love into a cosmetology career after high school. Wagner intends to showcase her artwork in the upcoming 2024 Charles County Youth Art Month Show.

About CCPS

Charles County Public Schools provides 27,765 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 38 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.

The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Kathy Kiessling, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial M. Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.

CCPS provides nondiscriminatory equal access to school facilities in accordance with its Use of Facilities rules to designated youth groups (including, but not limited to, the Boy Scouts).