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Board honors outstanding students at May 21 meeting

The Board of Education at its May 21 meeting honored five outstanding Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) students for academic achievement, personal responsibility and career readiness. Each month, the Board recognizes CCPS students for accomplishments in these areas.

This month, students who were acknowledged included fifth-grade students Kelsey Goff of Dr. Thomas L.  Higdon, Jahyre Latta of Berry and Jesudunmininu Olagunju of Eva Turner elementary schools; Elijah Merkle, an eighth-grade student of Piccowaxen Middle School and Drew Bowling, a La Plata High School senior.

Goff was recognized for career readiness as she has proven herself to be a “true leader,” Higdon Principal Shannon Finnegan, Ed.D., said. “Her drive [is] a shining example to her peers,” Finnegan said. Goff is involved in extracurricular activities including math team, Destination Imagination, Math, Engineering and Science Achievement (MESA) and Husky Buddies. She is also a safety patrol. Goff also uses her musical talent, playing the clarinet in the school band. “What truly sets Kelsey apart is her remarkable character, approaching every task with a smile and goodwill,” Finnegan said. Her natural ability to work collaboratively and take on leadership roles speaks volumes about her character and the respect she commands among her peers.” Outside of school, Goff participates in soccer, swim team and dance.

Latta has attended Berry for the last two years where he was demonstrated academic excellence, earning Principal’s Honor Roll every quarter and is a Level 5 on Reading and Math Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP). His favorite subject in school is math. Latta played an integral role in helping Berry’s fifth-grade math team bring home a third-place recognition at the county’s elementary math competition. “He is a wonderful leader, humble in all of his achievements and quick to give others recognition before himself,” Berry Principal LeighAnn McLaud said. “He always shows initiative and takes charge of his learning while also supporting the learning of others by sharing and modeling his great ideas.” Latta’s friends and peers hold him in high regard describing him as honest, hard-working, super smart and a problem solver. “Jahyre is a great example for all students to follow,” McLaud said.

Known as a “impressive well-rounded student” among her teachers, Olagunju takes great pride in her work and never misses an assignment, Eva Turner Principal Gary Lesko said. “She is an active participant in her learning and appears to be equally excited about all subjects,” he said. She regularly carries a dictionary around to help expand her vocabulary. Her i-Ready scores are among the top, surpassing typical growth goals in math and reading in the Winter i-Ready assessment. Olagunju never has a problem with any of her peers. She is a chorus student, who loves to listen to music and sing songs. Olagunju loves to write and wants to be an author of mystery or ghost stories when she grows up. Outside of school, Dunmininu likes to spend her time watching TV sitcoms and playing soccer.

Merkle has shown academic excellence since he was in sixth grade maintaining an almost perfect grade point average, earning all As and one B during his time at Piccowaxen. A gifted percussionist, he is also a member of the National Junior Honor Society, VEX Robotics, and the Math, Engineering and Science, and Achievement (MESA) team. He volunteers in his school community assisting with the set-up and running of events and fundraisers, such as Higdon’s Trunk-or-Treat event. Additionally, he finds time to volunteer at Our Place soup kitchen making to-go bags for local citizens experiencing food insecurity. Merkle’s teachers describe him as “amazing and kindhearted, the kind of student every teacher would be honored to have in their class,” Piccowaxen Principal Wulanda Thenstend said.

Bowling has been an NJROTC cadet all four years he has been a student at La Plata, rising to third in command as a Cadet Lieutenant. “His impeccable attendance, outstanding work ethic and drive have helped him achieve a 4.2 GPA,” La Plata Principal Douglass Dolan said. Bowling works has been employed at the La Plata Chick-fil-A for the past two years and trains new employees. He is a member of the National Honor Society and throws the shot put and discus for the Warriors varsity track and field team. Currently, Bowling is going through the application process to become a Charles County Sheriff’s Office correctional officer after graduation. He plans to become a Maryland State Trooper. “Drew is always willing to help, in any capacity, and is a friend to all,” Dolan said. “His strongest character traits include kindness, honesty and integrity.”

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).