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Helen Xia,

CHS Student Writer

My head hurts. Don’t worry, I’m not sick. I’m just applying to college. (It does seem like a lot of us are falling ill, though.) It’s the era of college applications, which means millions of students are working strenuously, pouring their hearts out into their essays and anticipating one common thing: the decision letter.

Colleges are getting increasingly more selective, calling for more work for potentially less results. Students across the globe have felt this strain. According to a report by Common App, “Total application volume through March 15 rose 21.3% from 2019–20 (5,477,465) to 2021–22 (6,644,028).”

With so many more students applying each year and the same number of seats available, acceptance rates—especially at the nation’s highest-ranked institutions—are steadily declining.

To combat the unpredictability of college applications, students are applying to more schools. As explained by the Common App, “Applicants are applying to more members, on average, in 2021–22 than in 2019–20.”

It seems like a perpetual cycle at this point, where acceptance rates keep plummeting, so students keep applying to more institutions, which causes the acceptance rates to keep plummeting.

Perhaps the most notorious example of colleges denying most of their applicants is Harvard College. (I fondly call that school Hard-vard.) For the Class of 2027, Harvard received nearly 57,000 applications. To put that in perspective, Mount St. Mary’s University received 9,240 applications in 2021. The Mount accepted applications from 7,554 individuals. Can you guess how many Harvard accepted? If you guessed less than 2,000, you’d be correct! (The number sits at precisely 1,966.)

You may be surprised to learn that the number of applications received by Harvard and the University of Maryland are very similar, both boasting just under 57,000 submissions. Of course, Maryland accepts almost ten times the number of students as Harvard, so they’re not the most comparable in that regard. What is comparable between them is the emotions of the Class of 2024 as we grind tirelessly through our applications.

Going through a bit of a slump myself, I decided to ask a few of my peers about how they felt about their applications.

“Well, I was in control [of my applications],” a senior said. He has already applied to a few schools, which, as of the time I’m typing this, is very quick. “I was chilling for some time, and then my viola teacher added two music schools to my list, and now I’m not in control [anymore].”

That’s practically how I feel, except I don’t think I was ever completely in control of my applications.

“[I feel] sad,” another replied. She’s busy retaking exams to submit to colleges. “I believe people should be able to get education if they want it and not have to [take] tests in order to get into a good education system.”

“It feels weird,” a third student shared. “It feels like I’m selling myself out as a product. It feels like I’m advertising myself, but I’m the one who’s paying to attend their school. I’m not even an adult yet, but I’m expected to have my future figured out.”

Now, college is a topic widely discussed throughout the grade. Scrambling to get recommendation letters, navigating the finicky college website we have to use, and trying to speak positively of ourselves without sounding arrogant, these are all newfound challenges that dedicated Catoctin High School staff are guiding us through. Because of how stressful this experience tends to be, this time of year brings out some controversial opinions about further education. Here are a few I’ve heard:

“College is a scam.”

“Where you go to college doesn’t really matter. More or less, all schools are the same.”

“College should be free.”

“The grades you get in college don’t really matter, as long as you graduate. The diploma you get stays the same.”

“College applications and standardized testing are just elitism games, not a measure of intelligence.”

Regardless of the numerous complaints and perspectives we may have, it seems that those fail to stop us from putting our best foot forward in this tedious process. From what I’m observing, we are nervous and exhausted, but we are driven. I’m confident that the Class of 2024 will make it out stronger than we started—we always do.

As for me, I feel the same as basically everyone else: tired. There’s a lot going on and too little time to fully comprehend it all. It’s draining for the teachers involved as well. I’ve heard of teachers writing twenty or so individualized letters of recommendation for students, which is something not in their job description. In other words, they don’t get compensated for the extra time and effort they put into crafting these letters. Bear in mind that for each student, teachers refer to a lengthy survey (known as a “Senior Brag Sheet”) to pick out specific qualities of their students to speak about. That’s a lot of work in very little time!

The most important element throughout applying for college is, in my opinion, respect. As is evident from what I discussed earlier, teachers and staff deserve so much respect for everything they willingly sacrifice for their students. Additionally, during this time, the mutual respect most students and staff have for each other is apparent. Such relationships are necessary for effective communication in times like this.

Don’t forget, it’s essential for students to respect themselves, too. Again, college requires a lot of work, even before stepping onto campus. No matter what one’s grades and accomplishments are, college admission is never guaranteed. With colleges becoming so competitive, it’s critical for students (and guardians) to remember that their self-worth is not tied to an academic institution.

A notion I agree with is that it doesn’t matter too much where exactly you go to school, as long as you make the most of wherever you are. Just be a positive force, and you’ll radiate wherever you go. Remember: In a couple of months, it’ll all be over! (I’ve heard that’s when senioritis really kicks in…)

Helen Xia, CHS Student Writer

What do you think of when you hear the term “back to school?” Undoubtedly, school requires a huge investment of time. Among such time-consuming attributes as seven-hour school days, piles of homework, and morning traffic, school rings another major bell in my mind: back-to-school shopping. Back-to-school doesn’t wait: On the first few days of July—summer had barely lasted for a month at that point—I saw back-to-school signs hanging on the ceilings of Walmart and Target. Abruptly, rows of decorative vases and towels were replaced with seas of backpacks, notebooks, and pens.

Despite the great number of school supplies stacked on these shelves each year, they don’t last very long—in my experience, at least. By mid-August, half of the shelves stood barren. I was impressed: That must be a lot of money, right?

At first, it doesn’t seem like a lot; however, $2.00 scissors and $3.00 packs of colored pencils add up quickly, especially if one decides to purchase everything new for the upcoming school year. Thus, to answer the question I asked earlier: Yes, that’s a lot of money.

According to research conducted by Capital One, a leading American bank holding company, “American families spent a total of $41.5 billion on K-12 back-to-school shopping in 2023.”

Yes, that number was in billions of dollars.

Initially, that number may not sound too bad. After all, there are a lot of children in the United States. Don’t worry, that number gets higher once you factor in back-to-college shopping. As explained by Capital One, “Americans spent a total of $135.5 billion for back-to-school and back-to-college shopping in 2023.” If you further break up the data, one child spent an average of $597 for back-to-school, and the average household spent more than $1,300 on back-to-college hauls.

To put the aforementioned numbers in perspective, in 2022, Starbucks’ net revenue was “only” 26.58 billion dollars, and Target’s 2022 net revenue came up to roughly 106 billion dollars. (Emphasis on the quotation marks around “only”; 26.58 billion dollars is by no means a little amount of money.) Both of these notorious companies made considerably less than what Americans spent on school necessities this year!

It’s worth noting that this incredible amount of money was not just for glue sticks and erasers. Those are the cheapest back-to-school shopping supplies. Most families included new clothes, electronics, and other essentials in their budgets for back-to-school shopping, which are certainly more costly than your typical school supplies. On new shoes alone, families spent an average of about $166.

It’s safe to say that parents and guardians aren’t the happiest spending hundreds of dollars annually, but what about the kids? Do they feel excited to use their new supplies?

One teenager discussed ignoring much of the school supply list this year. “I didn’t use most of it last year, so I don’t see the point in getting new stuff,” she remarked.

Another high schooler commented, “Imagine getting a new backpack every year. I still use mine from middle school. It’s doing its job.”

An elementary schooler was enthusiastic about his new school supplies. “I got a new supply case, and it locks and it has keys,” he told me. “The coolest part is that it makes noise when you scratch the front.”

I’m more with the elementary schooler on this one. In my opinion, fresh supplies symbolize a fresh start, and they “set the mood” for the rest of the year. Nothing feels like writing in a pristine notebook for the first time.

Regarding the attitude about returning to school in general, a teenager replied, “I’m really excited to go back to school. I’m looking forward to talking to my teachers and friends I haven’t been able to see this summer.”

On the flip side, a senior responded, “[I’m] happy that I have a year left. I’m looking forward to graduation, so I never have to come back.” I hate to admit it, but I kind of agree with him. While I like living in the small town of Thurmont, I’m anticipating experiencing life outside of its bounds.

Finally, a younger student described his worries for this academic year. “I don’t want to go to fourth grade,” he mentioned. After I asked him why, he answered, “Because it’s harder. Everything is harder [than third grade].”

Personally, I’ve had moments this year that led me to save a bit of money on materials for school. For instance, after showing my friend a picture of a $99.00 backpack I was debating on purchasing, he said, “I got mine for $20.00, and it lasted three years.” Hearing that, I decided to hold off on buying it—maybe I’ll invest that money toward a backpack for college instead.

Moreover, when shopping for my younger brother’s school supplies, I noticed how it called for exceptionally high numbers of things, such as six notebooks and four packs of loose-leaf paper. That’s a lot of paper, isn’t it? Most of the time, he returns home with notebooks that are mostly empty and other gadgets that were hardly touched. Don’t tell my parents, but I got him only five notebooks and three packs of paper.

With all of that being said, it’s definitely a privilege to be debating whether I want to buy a $100 backpack. Around this time, it’s great to see organizations such as churches and schools providing school supplies to students free of charge. As we’ve already observed, going down back-to-school supply lists is no inexpensive undertaking! Evidently, when humanity unites, beautiful things happen.

Well, this is my final year of K-12 school shopping, so I guess I better cherish it. Next year, I’ll have to shop for college. K-12 back-to-school shopping is enough of a headache, and I’m saying that with 12 years of experience! Scurrying through cluttered shelves and groups of shoppers for one specific item never gets easier.

I learned a lot researching this topic. Furniture, even for a dinky college dorm room, is expensive! A singular headboard can be upwards of $300, even $400! One thing’s for sure: I won’t be getting a headboard. When the time comes, I hope I won’t spend past the national average of $1,366.95 on back-to-college shopping, but I won’t make any promises yet.

Mount Saint Mary’s University released a list of the Class of 2023’s accomplishments in the wake of its 215th commencement exercises on May 13, in which 616 students graduated, including the Mount’s first-ever students from the Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis program.

Donna Klinger, executive director of communications, stated that, regarding undergraduate degree recipient, 130 recipients were from the College of Liberals Arts, 134 recipients were from the Richard J. Bolte, Sr. School of Business, 32 recipients were from the School of Education, and 138 recipients were from the School of Natural Science and Mathematics. [no quotation marks…is this whole paragraph her quote?]

Master’s graduates included 7 Master of Arts recipients in Philosophical Studies, 10 Master of Arts recipients in Teaching, 85 Master of Business Administration recipients, 1 Master of Education recipient in Instructional Design and Technology, 7 Master of Education recipients in Instructional Leadership, 12 Master of Science recipients in Applied Behavior Analysis, 22 Master of Science recipients in Biotechnology and Management, 10 Master of Science recipients in Health Administration, and 20 Master of Science recipients in Sport Management.

Six cadets from the Mount U.S. Army ROTC program from the Mount’s Class of 2023 will be commissioned. They are Ucheyah Aguoru, Michael Guzman, John Otoo, John Ruedisueli, Andrew Sobocinski, and Nicholas Vincente. Andrew Sobocinski received the Lancer Award for outstanding performance and exemplary leadership in the program.

Commencement speakers included Karen Mataldi Dahut, C’85, CEO of Google Public Sector (GPS) and . Dahut is a respected and recognized public speaker and author, and an expert on technology, the future of work, innovation and inclusive leadership. In 2021, she received the university’s Simon Brute Medal, which is given to alumni who have distinguished themselves through their career, commitment to the community and the Mount, and service to their fellow citizens. She will be honored with a doctorate of humane letters in recognition of her service to the university and the local and global communities.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Todd Bowles, who in the fall of 2022 earned a Bachelor of Science in youth and community development through the university’s Center for Accelerated and Adult Education, also addressed the graduates. 

Bowles is entering his second season as head coach of the Buccaneers, following three seasons as the team’s defensive coordinator. He was previously head coach of the New York Jets. He also played eight years in the NFL, with the Washington Redskins (now Commanders) and San Francisco 49ers. He has three Super Bowl rings as a player (Washington), coach (Tampa Bay), and administrator (Green Bay Packers).

The student speaker was Rita Anoh, recipient of the 2023 Edward J. Flanagan Memorial Prize, awarded to the member of the senior class who best represents the tradition of the university in scholarship, conduct, and leadership. Anoh, a resident of Westminster, Maryland, is a double major in biochemistry and French.

Notable graduates recognized included Thunlwyn Garcia, an entrepreneurship major; Collin Nji, a computer science major; Devin Peart, named co-recipient of the Rev. John J. O’Neill Memorial Prize for the member of the senior class who has attained outstanding achievement in political science studies; Julianna Roman, the recipient of the J. Daniel Larsen Memorial Prize for the distinguished study of the French and/or Latin languages. Roman is a triple major in philosophy, politics, and economics, French and Spanish; Lynne Schumacher, the first 12 graduates of the Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis program; Tayla Stewart, an elementary education major with dual certification in special education and recipient of the Dr. Judy Ramoy Johnstone Endowed Prize; Johnathan Tran, a biology major and recipient of the Dominic Greco Award for a pre-medical student who has been a credit to the university; and Abigail Zeigenfuse, a neuroscience and health sciences pre-nursing major, who also received the Excellence in Neuroscience Award.

Congratulations to Mount St. Mary’s University Class of 2023.

Photo Courtesy of MSMU

Mount Saint Mary’s University’s Class of 2023 at their May 13 graduation ceremony.

Nineteen Catoctin FFA members attended the 95th Maryland State FFA Convention on June 27-29. The state convention was held at the University of Maryland in College Park. This year’s theme was “Making Waves.” All students attended workshops and sessions, industry tours, and participated in CDE/LDEs (contest) and got to network with over 390 members from across the state!

Agriculture Sales — The Ag Sales team placed 2nd in the state. This team had to research different types of utility trailers. They then had to sell the different products to potential consumers. Team members included Sophia Chism, Taylor Knott (8th place ind.), Ryleigh Ruch (2nd place ind.), and Trinity Spidle (4th place ind.).

Ag Marketing — Ella Burrier, Caroline Clark, and Peyton Davis are members of the Ag Marketing Team. This team met with the owner of Sunny Acres Rabbitry. They made a marketing plan to help the owners make a larger profit and reach his goals in the future. The team placed 2nd in competition.

Ag Issues — Our Ag Issues Team placed 1st in the state. The team consisted of Annalise Abruzzese, Kaitlynn Bentz, Alyssa Costa, Carly Ridenour, Savannah Ridenour, and Katie Topper. This team created a presentation about including an agriculture class to the MD high school graduation requirements. They will travel to the National Convention in October/November for national competition. 

Agriculture Communications — Owen Cook, Cadence Lovejoy, Abby Moreland (9th place ind.), and Drew Potter participated in the Agriculture Communications Contest. The team placed 4th. They had to  work as a team of communication consultants to develop a written media plan, present the plan to a panel of judges, and, as individuals, apply what they have learned during practicums, a quiz, and editing exercise.

FFA Knowledge — This team placed 4th. Students had to take a written exam on FFA history and work together to complete a team activity. Team members include Annalise Abruzzzese, Ellie Baker, Kaitlynn Bentz, and Carly Ridenour (8th place ind.).

Sr. Prepared Speaking — Ellie Baker participated in this event. She wrote a six-eight-minute speech. She had to present it and answer questions about it. Her topic was about the floral industry.

Jr. Extemporaneous Speaking — Annalise Aburzzese and Kayla Delcid participated in this event. They picked a topic out of a hat and had 30 minutes to write a four-six-minute speech about the topic. They were allowed to use five resources. Kayla was 6th in the state and Annalise was first!

Employment Skills — Savannah Ridenour participated in the Employment Skills Contest. She had to create a resume and cover letter before attending the convention.  At convention, she participated in a job interview and had to write a follow-up letter afterward. She placed 8th in the state.

State FFA Degree —Ellie Baker, Abby Moreland, Savannah Ridenour, Colt Sanders, and Payton Troxell earned their state degree. This is the highest degree our state can bestove to its members. 

Honorary State FFA Degree — Alumni members Matthew Wayne Dellinger and Carrie Wivell Wolf were honored with their Honorary State FFA Degree this year. Both individuals are huge supporters of Catoctin FFA and help Maryland FFA throughout the year in various ways.

American FFA Degree — Cadin Valentine was recognized for being an American FFA Degree candidate.

National Chapter — Catoctin FFA was recognized for being a top chapter in Maryland. Their application will be forwarded to the National level for competition.

Retiring Maryland State FFA President, “Our chapter was proud to have Kendall Abruzzese represent us throughout the year as the 2022-2023 Maryland State FFA President.  She spent the year traveling nationally and internationally to promote Maryland and American Agriculture. She worked closely with FFA members in the state and with National leaders in our country to tell our story.”

Adriane Brooks (pictured right) has been named the 2023 Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) Substitute Teacher of the Year.

According to nomination materials submitted by the staff at Lewistown Elementary School, Brooks is flexible and willing to help in any capacity. She creates a positive learning environment and is calm and caring with students. 

“Lewistown is beyond grateful for the profound impact Ms. Brooks has had on our community,” said Lewistown Elementary Principal Belinda Fockler. “Students know they can count on a friendly smile and a positive learning environment when she substitutes. Adriane goes above and beyond daily duties with a big heart, flexible mindset, and willingness to chip in at a moment’s notice. She has certainly earned this honor, and we are proud to have her on our Lewistown team!”

The Board of Education of Frederick County honored Brooks at their meeting in June, awarding her the seventh annual FCPS Substitute Teacher of the Year award. She has been a substitute with the school system for six years.

Courtesy Photo

Maxine Troxell

Volunteers with the Thurmont Alumni Association hosted the Thurmont High School (THS) Alumni Annual Banquet at the Thurmont Event Complex on June 10, 2023. Alumni President Ron Pearcey (Class of ‘64) welcomed the crowd of 184, and Ron Free (Class of ‘64) served as Master of Ceremonies. Nancy Duncan (Class of ‘58) gave the invocation.

Fond alumni memories were shared, with a big screen video developed by Maxine Troxell (Class of ‘62), with photos from the good old days in school. 

In addition to the social aspect of the banquet, some association business was conducted, with the reading of the organization’s last meeting minutes by Secretary Viola Noffsinger (Class of ‘58), as well as the Treasurer’s Report and Scholarship Fund Report by Treasurer Becky Linton (Class of ‘58).

Scholarships totaling $21,700 were awarded to this year’s scholars. Those receiving scholarships this year were:

From the Donald Lewis Community Impact Fund: Katie Glass – Alumnus, Linda (Wastler) Glass – 1966; Natalie Hafler –Alumnus, Jerry Smith – 1971; Tanner Seiss – Alumnus, Linda Marie (Finneyfrock) Smith – 1969 and Daniel Seiss – 1965; Skyla Smith – Alumnus, James Lee Royer – 1963 and Peggy (Favorite) Royer – 1966.

From the Donald P. Dougherty Memorial Fund: Adam Bollinger – Alumnus, Sterling E. Bollinger – 1946, Maggie Doll – 1971; Paige Willard – Alumnus, Morris Thomas Willard – 1952. 

From the Thurmont High School Alumni Association: Matin Donnelly – Alumnus, Arleen (Miller) Donnelly – 1969, Peggy (Ennis) Willard – 1969                and Dennis Willard – 1968); Collin Dowling – Alumnus, Carol (Shriner) Martin – 1965; Ashlynn Holmes – Alumnus, Nancy (Fair) Titman – 1957; Alexander O’Connell – Alumnus, Shirley (Wierman) Freshman – 1970.

Anniversary classes honored at this banquet were graduating classes: 1943, 1948, 1953, 1958, 1963, 1968, 1973. 

This year, the Alumni honored THS Cheerleaders: Deborah Fornwald (CHS ’73), Connie (Long) Fream (THS ’64), Joan (Bittner) Fry (THS ’56), Penelope (Wood) Joseph (THS ’69), Peggy (Wachter) Laster (THS ’55), Carol (Gearhart) Long (CHS ’72), Cathy (Smith) Petree (THS ’69), Linda (Elower) Sicilia (THS ’68),   Margo (Emrich) Trexler (THS ’63), and Susan (Long) Wireman (CHS ’72).

The oldest person was Ed Coleman (Class of 1942). The furthest distance traveled was Frances (Lampkin) Purcell (Class of 1958) from Fillmore, California. 

The items that were auctioned: original brick from the school, donated by Ray May (‘59); Cat’s Meow’s by Dick Creager (‘53); a 1958 Chevy Impala miniature car, donated by Gladys Baker (‘61); two books written by Terry Miller (‘57); and a Thurmont sweatshirt. 

Raffles were a 50/25/25 raffle; a Goodie Basket by Carol (Gearhart) Long (‘72), won by Betty Martin (Class of ‘56); and Baked Goods by Nancy Gearhart Rice (‘62), won by Ernest Rice (Class of ‘55),

Door prizes donated by various local businesses and organizations was hosted by Ron Pearcey. 

Other committee members were: Bill Eyler, Rusty Hauver (Vice President), Carol Long, Ray May, and Lela Weaver.

The banquet was closed by President Ron Pearcey.

Next year’s THS Alumni Banquet will be held on June 8, 2024.

The Thurmont High School Alumni would like to thank the following donors of door prizes and auction: Bollinger’s Restaurant, Catoctin Mountain Orchard, The Ott House, Gateway Candyland Market, Los Amigos Mexican Restaurant, Rocky’s Pizza, Trouts Foods, Roy Rogers Restaurant, Fratellis New York Pizza, Weis Market, Jubilee Grocery, Maple Run Golf, Carriage House Inn, Mountain Memories, The Wedding Bouquet by Karen Myers, Hillside Turkey Farm, Kountry Kitchen Restaurant, and Mountain Gate Restaurant.

Photos by Maxine Troxell

Class of 1953

Pictured: (back row) Dick Creeger, Naomi Long, Raymond Long, Dot Budd; (front row) Charlotte Nusbaum, Pat Weddle, Cecelia Fraley, and Betty Mumma.

Class of 1958

Pictured: (standing) James Bittner, Delores Whipp, Mike Miller; (middle row) Rebecca Linton, Tena Karinshak, Nancy Allen,Frances Purcell; (front row) Viola Noffsinger, Doris Simpson, Nancy Fraley, Georgette Stitley, and Joyce Bohn.

Class of 1963

Pictured: (standing) Bob Benjamin, George Zinkham, Roger Stull; (middle row) Larry Freshman, Margo Trexler, William Wagaman; (front row) Sam Royer, Beverly Hessong, Shelby Wagaman, and Carolyn Sexton.

Class of 1968

Pictured: (standing) Richard Long, Peter Sicilia, Jr.; (front row) Marsha Ridenour and Linda Sicilia.

Class of 1973

Deborah Fornwald

Teacher Clarence Piper

Scholarship Winners: Alexander O’Connell, Matin Donnelly, Katie Glass, and Adam Bollinger.

Winner of the Baked Goods, Ernest Rice

Winner of the Gift Basket, Betty Martin (Class of 1956)

*Next year’s Thurmont High School Alumni Banquet will be held on June 8, 2024.

Area churches in Emmitsburg, Lewistown, Rocky Ridge, Sabillasville, and Thurmont are working to provide students in need with school supplies for the 2023-2024 school year. This program is to assist students attending the Catoctin Feeder Schools. These schools include Emmitsburg Elementary, Lewistown Elementary & Pyramid Program, Sabillasville Environmental, Thurmont Primary, Thurmont Elementary, Thurmont Middle, and Catoctin High.

The Annual Catoctin Community School Supply Drive Distribution Day is going to be held on Tuesday, August 15, from 8:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m., in the Graceham Moravian Church parking lot, located at 8231 Rocky Ridge Road in Thurmont. 

This will be a drive-thru event.

Backpacks will already be packed with basic supplies, according to FCPS guidelines, and handed in your window.

If you would like to donate to this program, please drop off school supplies, cash donations, or gift cards (Walmart) to the church on August 8, from 8:00 a.m.-noon. Monetary donations can also be made at Any questions or concerns, please contact the coordinator, Jennifer Harbaugh, at 301-639-9970 or

The Emmitsburg High School Alumni Association (EHSAA) is pleased to announce the winners of its annual EHSAA scholarship program. Five $1,000 scholarships were awarded this year. The scholarship applicants were judged on involvement in school and community activities, as well as their academic work. Honors and work experience were also considered.

The first two scholarship recipients are seniors at Catoctin High School (CHS).  Lily Bingman, daughter of William and Jennifer Bingman, is planning to attend Coastal Carolina University in the fall. Mackenzie Orndorff, daughter of Tommy and Michele Orndorff, is planning to attend Mount Saint Mary’s University in the fall. 

The final three recipients were former graduates of Catoctin High School.  Attending Mount Saint Mary’s University, career goal in the area of law, is Savannah Morris, daughter of Julie and Charles Morris. Attending Oklahoma State University, majoring in agricultural communications, is Rianna Chaney, daughter of Becky and Lee Chaney. Attending Butler Community College, career goal in agricultural communications, is Sheridan Chaney, daughter of Becky and Lee Chaney.

This year, EHSAA was able to give out a fifth $1,000 scholarship, in memory of Edward and Margaret Meadows.

All recipients will be recognized at the Emmitsburg High School Alumni Association’s 98th Annual Banquet to be held October 16, 2023. We wish them all success.

Purchase of New Cafeteria Tables

The Lewistown Ruritan Club, Playground Specialists, and Catoctin Mountain Orchard partnered to donate $6,202 to purchase four new cafeteria tables for the Lewistown Elementary School. 

A dedication ceremony was held in the school cafeteria with plaques for each organization providing the funds. These dedication plaques will be hung on the wall outside the school cafeteria. The dedication ceremony was also attended by five Lewistown Elementary School students who shared what they loved about their school.

Pictured from left: (back row) Robert Black, Catoctin Mountain Orchard and a Lewistown Ruritan member; Odale Martin, Treasurer, Lewistown Ruritan Club; Loberta Staley, Secretary, Lewistown Ruritan Club; Frank Warner, President, Lewistown Ruritan Club; Jeffrey Barber, Playground Specialists and a Lewistown Ruritan member; and Belinda Fockler, Principal, Lewistown Elementary School; (front row) Judah Young (second grade); Breanna Shultz (fourth grade); Mailani Pu-Uloa (kindergarten); Madison French (fourth grade); and Anthony Vignola (second grade).

Trenton Witte, of Fairfield, Pennsylvania, was awarded the $1,000 Great Valu 2023 Scholarship by Jubilee Foods.

Trenton is an accomplished athlete as captain of both the football and basketball teams, as well as an award-winner in track & field. Trenton is also a member of the National Honor Society, achieved Honor Roll for his entire high school career, and enjoys gaming in his spare time.

Following his graduation from Fairfield Area High School at the end of May, Trenton will be attending West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia, majoring in cyber security. Congratulations, Trenton!

Linda Kaas, store manager at Jubilee Foods, presents Trenton Witte a $1,000 Great Valu 2023 Scholarship.

Emmitsburg Elementary School on South Seton Avenue in Emmitsburg is holding a Summer Carnival Event to promote Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten registration on Wednesday, June 14, from 6:00-7:30 p.m.

During this event, they will provide families with children who will turn four or five by September 1, 2023, the opportunity to complete registration information to enroll their child(ren) for the 2023-2024 school year, as well as enjoy a light meal, receive door prizes, and participate in age-appropriate carnival-type games.

Richard D. L. Fulton

Artist rendition of proposed Coad expansion.

Mount Saint Mary’s University (MSMU) kicked off the planned expansion of the university’s construction of a 21,000-square-foot addition to the Mount’s Coad Science Building with a “beam-signing” ceremony on April 28.

The construction of the $10.75 million addition will commence as the spring semester ends, according to information provided by MSMU’s Marketing & Communications Team, with the objective that the project will be completed by the fall of 2024.

The “beam-signing” event was held to mark the official beginning of the $10.75 million project, and a fiberglass beam was made available for ceremonial event attendees to sign.  The beam will ultimately be displayed in a prominent location in the building once the expansion project is completed.

“The addition to Coad will provide a state-of-the-art learning environment for the Mount’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs, enabling programmatic expansion consistent with STEM profession demands and helping the university continue to attract and retain outstanding faculty and students,” Mount President Timothy Trainor stated.

Christine McCauslin, dean of the School of Natural Science and Mathematics, said, “We are fortunate to have experienced tremendous growth in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics over the last several years, thanks to the hard work of our students, faculty, and staff.”

McCauslin further stated, “I look forward to the road ahead as we build on our trajectory of success and gain recognition as a leading STEM educator, whose graduates are highly sought after, and prepared to make a positive impact on the world.”

Coad is a three-story, 50,100 square-foot building, which houses the School of Natural Science and Mathematics. The building, constructed in 1964, has outgrown the existing space and needs to be renovated for modern STEM pedagogical (educational)  practices, according to MSMU Marketing & Communications.

Stantec Architecture, based in Butler, Pennsylvania, designed the expansion plan.

Construction is being managed by JEM Group, LLC, based in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.

Specific goals for the expansion include a design that promotes circulation and spontaneous interaction; is flexible and adaptable; and provides natural light where STEM students and faculty in action can see, and be seen, according to the Mount.

The new classroom and lab spaces will be technology-rich, multi-use, flexible, and configurable for a variety of instructional formats and class sizes.

MSMU Marketing & Communications reported that the addition will include neuroscience, computational, and environmental research labs, as well as collaborative spaces, which will be constructed in the first phase of the project.

The second phase will include the buildout of the second and third levels of the expansion, which will include the creation of additional science labs, classrooms, and experiential research spaces. The work on the expansion will then be completed in a third phase, which will involve renovation of the existing space in the Coad Science Building.

The Coad expansion and renovation project is being funded by donations to the Our Mission, Our Moment, Our Mount Campaign, and a $2 million grant from the State of Maryland, in conjunction with donations made in support of the project through the Forward! Together as One campaign.

The Our Mission, Our Moment, Our Mount was created as a comprehensive campaign to invest at least $50 million to help address more immediate mission-critical priority needs.

The Forward! Together as One campaign was established to raise contributions for various Mount projects, ranging from sports assets to Seminary upgrades to National Shrine of the Grotto improvements.

A “lead donation” from George Delaplaine, Jr. will provide the collaborative space, to be called the Delaplaine Family Academic Commons. Other top-level donors to the expansion project are the Page Family Foundation, Trish and D.J. Monagle, Paula and Fred Neuer, and Christina Lee and Mark Sobus.

Christine McCauslin, dean of the School of Natural Science and Mathematics, signs the commemorative beam.

Garret Troxell of Thurmont is a new junior member of the American Angus Association®, reports Mark McCully, CEO of the national organization with headquarters in Saint Joseph, Missouri.

Junior members of the association are eligible to register cattle in the American Angus Association, participate in programs conducted by the National Junior Angus Association, and take part in Association-sponsored shows and other national and regional events.

The American Angus Association is the largest beef breed association in the world, with more than 22,000 active adult and junior members. Visit for more information about the National Junior Angus Association. For more information about Angus cattle and the American Angus Association, visit

The Lewistown Ruritan Club is offering scholarships to graduates of Catoctin High School and Thomas Johnson High School or relatives of Lewistown Ruritan current or past members. These scholarships are available for a community college, a four-year college, and vocational or trade schools.

Completed applications are to be returned to Randy Green, 17 Sunfish Trail, Fairfield, PA 17320 by June 20, 2023. For scholarship forms or additional questions, contact Randy at or any Lewistown Ruritan member.

 The Lewistown Ruritan Club has served the Lewistown/Thurmont Community since 1960. “We work to enhance the quality of life through community service and to make our community a better place to live and work.”

The club currently holds six chicken BBQs a year, plus other fundraisers, to support local causes and to award scholarships to local students.

Catoctin High School’s first-ever “Ride your Horse to School Day” was held on Thursday, April 6.

Ava Ganjon, Trinity Spidle, Taylor Knott, and Kylie Putman rode their horses to school as a representation of Catoctin’s Equine Club. Teachers and students were intrigued to see horses at their school, which brought their small Equine Club more attention and, hopefully, more members in the years to come. There are already more people hoping to be involved next year! The students would like to extend a big “Thank You” to DFC Davis and CPL Barrera for escorting them on their safe ride to the high school.

Pictured from left are Kylie Putman riding Cara, Ava Ganjon riding Cody, Taylor Knott riding Snowflake, and Trinity Spidle riding Gucci; (standing in front) morning escorts, CPL Berrera and DFC Davis.

FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Team 686, Bovine Intervention, located in Thurmont, composed of students from Catoctin, Walkersville, and Oakdale High Schools and Walkersville Middle School, competed at the 2023 FRC Chesapeake District Championship at George Mason University, EagleBank Arena, on April 6, 7, and 8.

Teams 686 is one of five FRC high school level robotics programs in Frederick County. Prior to competing at the District Championship event, they competed in two FRC Chesapeake District qualifier events in March with other teams across the FIRST Chesapeake District areas of Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia. Based on Team’s 686’s overall accomplishments at the competitions in March, they advanced to be among 60 teams competing at the FRC Chesapeake District Championship three-day event. This championship event is one of many regional events across the United States. It had 120 competition matches and playoffs and serves as the stepping-stone with awards and rank earnings for select teams to compete at the FIRST Championship (World competition) in Houston, Texas. Teams 686 and 8726 finished the regional event in the mid-rankings but were not selected to compete in the 24 teams’ playoff rounds or advance to the FIRST Championship in Houston, Texas. Therefore, this completes their 2023 FRC season. Besides rankings earned during the competitions, Team 686 earned a Creative Design Award for their robot turret design at the Chesapeake District Championship. To reach this accomplishment, Team 686 Bovine Intervention conducted team-building, introduction to tools, and robot design and build during the summer and fall of 2022. Team 686 participated in the FIRST off-season competitions in August, October, and December. This prepared students to understand FIRST and robot competitions. As a result, students were ready for the 2023 FRC design, build, and testing of a 125-pound competition robot in response to the reveal of the 2023 FIRST tasks and strategic-oriented game in January 2023.

For the 2022 and 2023 school year, Frederick County students were inspired and gained educational experience as a response to tasks provided by the FIRST organization. Students learned and worked on electrical and mechanical engineering practices using Computer Assisted Drawing (CAD) software tools, applications, systems prototyping, assembly of structural and electrical components to a robot, advanced computer programming, and final laboratory test and refinement to complete a finished product. Students used various advanced additive and subtractive manufacturing equipment to include 3D printing, Computer Numerical Control (CNC), lathe, drill press, saws, and other types of tools. To expand on the aspects of advanced programming, students build extensive program coding for driving the robot and forming autonomous operations using measurements, calculations, and sensor readings for spatial locations. Overall, these robotics programs operate based on the FIRST organization to inspire young people by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, which inspires innovation and fosters well-rounded life capabilities, such as self-confidence, communications, and leadership. Students engaged in teamwork and performed marketing, outreach, and collaboration with other robotics programs at or outside of competitions.

Mentors, teachers, and student alumni help guide and prepare these students for opportunities in the 21st century workforce. As vibrant as these programs can be, most of the operational capabilities are based on support from grants, sponsors, families, donations, and volunteers. Additionally, the State of Maryland provides property tax credits to property owners who qualify and support robotics programs with a space to operate. Teams continually seek out such support.

Courtesy Photos FRC Team 686, Bovine Intervention, 2023 FRC Chesapeake District Championship

by Helen Xia, CHS Student Writer

Congratulations to Catoctin High School’s Class of 2023 for graduating this month! Every year, Catoctin’s graduation is held at Mount Saint Mary’s University’s Knott Arena, where hundreds of students, staff, families, and friends gather to celebrate graduating students’ incredible accomplishments. Years of aspiration and perseverance, ups and downs, and joy and sorrow unite in this one event. Looking out, you’d see Catoctin’s passionate band, a stage seated with admirable speakers, and, of course, a sea of blue caps and gowns. You would hear the band play “Pomp and Circumstance,” feet shuffling—perhaps from nervousness or exhilaration, or a combination of both—and the crowd buzzing with excitement. 

Seeing this, one may wonder: How did we get to this point? A happening as important as this one must require much preparation. What transpires behind the scenes leading up to this celebration? To answer these questions, I sought out three diverse perspectives: one from graduating senior Emma Stream, one from event coordinator David Gadra, and, finally, one from row manager, Russell Headley.

As mentioned previously, graduation is a pivotal milestone for students, which gives rise to a wide array of powerful emotions. “As graduation moves closer, I feel incredibly nervous, yet relieved,” described Stream. “All of my hard work has finally paid off, and I’m relieved and overjoyed at the thought of starting a new chapter in my life. However, I’m nervous because of starting this new chapter, although I know things will eventually work themselves out.”

Many refer to high school as one’s best years of life, but that doesn’t mean high school is free from sacrifices. This sentiment is echoed by Stream, who explained, “There have been many mistakes that I have made in my life. One of the biggest ones I feel I made is sacrificing my mental health for school. The sacrifice of mental health is never worth it, no matter how well you do, as true happiness and content cannot be measured by the grade that you get in some high school class that you will barely remember in 20 years.”

Fortunately, these hardships are opportunities for seemingly boundless growth. “There have definitely been shifts in my mindset throughout the years, but the biggest change in my mindset has been letting go,” reflected Stream. “In freshman year, I would work myself to death and to the brink of exhaustion, but, as I’ve grown up, I’ve realized that the stress isn’t worth it. By taking breaks, you tend to do better and feel better.”

The aforementioned growth is apparent to the staff members who treasure witnessing this lively gleam in students’ eyes. “Seeing each senior class, which are all different, growing and maturing after four years is very special to me!” said Gadra. “The facial expressions of each student walking across the stage is priceless as they realize what they have accomplished and the new journey that is in front of them.”

Despite the cheer that floods the Knott Arena each year, the organization process itself is no simple task. “It takes a team and hundreds of man hours to prepare,” Gadra reported. “[I] had a principal once tell me that a school can make many errors but graduation is not one of them. [Organization necessitates] a lot of meetings and divisions of responsibilities! I have done it for so long that it is a tried-and-true process. [It] starts at the beginning of the year all the way through graduation. [As the event coordinator, there is] some [pressure]–just do not want to make a mistake for the students or families!”

Headley, “a proud and enthusiastic Catoctin High School row manager looking forward to [his] 24th Catoctin High School graduation,” eloquently articulated the work behind hosting graduation: “There is a great deal of ‘behind the scenes’ work that our CHS graduation organizers, Dave Gadra and [guidance counselor] Shannon Byrnes, are involved in, from coordinating the lining up, entrance, and exit, to choreographing Catoctin’s iconic musical performances, speeches, and other features of the graduation ceremony, to organizing (and correctly pronouncing!) the names of scores of graduating seniors, in a high-pressure environment, while doing these important things in front of a large crowd that has a very vested interest in the proceedings which are being filmed by hundreds of cell phones and cameras.”

What’s more, Headley holds a unique perspective about graduation. “Personally, my favorite parts of every graduation are the musical performances that our courageous students deliver every year-typically, a live performance of our great country’s national anthem, followed by a live performance of a relevant song that serves as both a tribute and a farewell to each year’s graduating class,” he expressed. “Another thing about Catoctin High School graduations that impresses me every year is the fact that we always have seniors who have chosen to serve their country in our great nation’s military, and I love how we typically take a moment to recognize these courageous young men and women, who have made that patriotic and courageous choice to serve. I also love to see our military color guard, who always make a dignified, solemn, and stately entrance, bearing the flags of our country and state, reminding us that freedom isn’t free, and many soldiers have given what Lincoln called ‘the last full measure of devotion’ to preserve America’s freedom.”

Once more, Headley emphasized the effort Catoctin staff commit to each graduating class–understandably so! “Another thing that impresses me every year at Catoctin High School’s graduation is the fact that a very high percentage of Catoctin’s faculty, and all of our school’s administrative and guidance team enthusiastically volunteer to take part in our graduation ceremony, either by putting on their graduation robes or by assisting behind the scenes with taking tickets, helping with parking, assisting with the seating of guests, delivering speeches, reading the name of graduates, handing out diplomas, and hundreds of other activities that contribute to an exemplary and memorable graduation ceremony each year. I have to give a special ‘shout-out’ to Dave Gadra, who has been coordinating Catoctin’s graduations for quite a few years–I am guessing that Mr. Gadra has been taking on this leadership role for ten to fifteen years, at least, and he is always positive, patient, and very enthusiastic in leading our seniors for several graduation practices and hundreds of hours of behind-the-scenes work, [which] culminate each year in a superb graduation ceremony.” Evidently, not only should the students be commended during this ceremony, but all of the invested staff members should be, too! Every year, this event is able to run as flawlessly as possible thanks to their dedication and diligence. As a Catoctin student, I appreciate staff members’ (often undervalued) invaluable and consistent hard work which they generously put in on top of their already-busy schedules.

Catoctin, as a relatively small school, boasts an unrivaled sense of community. This sentiment of achievement and belonging is prominent during graduation where everybody is basking in each other’s light. If you’re a student, I’ll leave you with a piece of insightful advice from Stream: “Anything worth doing is worth doing with half effort, because you know what’s better than a 0? A 75, or even a 50. While those grades might not be what you want, they are still better for your grades and are better for your mental health, as they allow for you to move past the barriers your mind has set.” Otherwise, I’ll leave you with Headley’s rhetoric: “it is a time of joy; it is a time of nostalgia; and it is a time of hope and promise.” The beauty of community shines bright this time of year.

Congratulations, Catoctin’s Class of 2023! Best of luck to all of you!

Did you know that Catoctin’s faculty has the tradition of forming a “tunnel” or a “chute” to give new graduates a pathway from the Knott Arena to the staging area and the back exits, where the graduates can bid their final farewells with their classmates and meet with their parents? I didn’t, either, until Headley clarified this! Graduation’s immaculate organization is remarkable!

Mount Saint Mary’s University’s Knott Arena, photographed by Gregory Koch

For the second year in a row, two local teens won top science and engineering awards for their work with horses with asthma. Emma and Sarah Simmons, twin daughters of Lisa McLeod-Simmons and Jeffrey Simmons, were awarded 1st place in the Biomedical Engineering category at the 2023 Frederick County STEM competition held on March 25. The 13-year-olds are eighth graders at Mother Seton School in Emmitsburg.

Their project, “Smart Fabric Biosensing System for Monitoring Respiration Patterns in Horses with Respiratory Diseases,” developed an electronic device that enables horse owners and veterinarians to capture, record, and analyze the breathing patterns of horses with asthma. The small device, which is worn by the horse, can send the pulmonary function information to a smart phone app. This will help owners and vets to better diagnose and treat horses with respiratory diseases.

For their biomedical invention, they were also honored with the Battelle National Biodefense Institute (BNBI) Award; United States Public Health Service Meritorious Award; and the 20th Annual Raymond Ediger Award for Excellence in Agricultural Research.

Last year, Emma and Sarah took top honors at the Frederick County STEM competition for developing a portable and more efficient method to administer asthma medicine to horses. For this project, they advanced to a national science and engineering competition where they both won awards.

This summer they will continue learning more about horses and veterinary medicine at Purdue University’s School of Veterinary Medicine in West Lafayette, Indiana. Competing against hundreds of students, nationwide, Emma and Sarah recently won spots at the University’s pre-veterinary summer program.

Emma (left) and Sarah Simmons, 8th graders at Mother Seton School in Emmitsburg hold some of the awards they won at a recent science and engineering competition.

Courtesy Photo

by Helen Xia, CHS Student Writer

How big of a leap is between middle school and high school? Let’s start here: How young is a 14-year-old? Somebody who is 14 years of age can either be a middle schooler or a high schooler. Surely, a great portion of maturing is completed throughout one’s teenage years, especially when one considers it in retrospect. With that being said, how different are the two experiences to teenagers who are experiencing it themselves now?

Both middle school and high school are times of configuring one’s identity, and several of life’s most essential and bitter lessons are learned during this time period. That, combined with a seven-hour-long academic setting, letting go of and sustaining newfound relationships, and being faced with adulthood, is a stressful recipe for… well, stress. This makes sense, for 50 percent of middle schoolers and 56 percent of high schoolers feel that stress is one of the primary obstacles to their learning (YouthTruth).

It is commonly known that not many students are very fond of school. This attitude begins surprisingly young, and it seems to worsen as time progresses. Specifically, according to a poll conducted by Gallup, eight in ten elementary schoolers feel engaged in their classrooms. This starkly contrasts the four in ten high schoolers who feel this way. Comparably, in middle school, only about 54 percent of students feel that what they learn in school is relevant to their everyday lives, which is similar to high schoolers’ 46 percent. Despite this, many people also mentioned how, in the future, people often reminisce about their teenage years as being good times that weren’t appreciated enough. It is interesting to ponder how events, and our perception of them, may shift dramatically depending on our stage in life. You know what they say: Youth is wasted on the young.

I began high school during the COVID-19 pandemic when schools were shut down and classes were conducted online via virtual meetings. Even then, the bridge between middle school and high school didn’t seem to be very long for some students. For instance, a student explained, “Transitioning from middle [school] to high school wasn’t too bad, as we did online school at the time. I really didn’t notice any difference in the workloads either.”

Other peers pointed out how school days felt much shorter when attended through a computer screen. With that in mind, most students I’ve heard from didn’t like virtual schooling. “It doesn’t feel like school without the people,” they said, which was certainly true with the limited communication possible online. Others struggled to feel motivated, looking up answers or falling asleep in classes. (That happens in in-person classes now, too, but you didn’t hear that from me.)

A stressed topic was the people you meet and the relationships you build in middle and high school.

“In high school, friendships become deeper,” a student explained. “You begin knowing what exactly you do or do not like, and you surround yourself with people according to those standards. In middle school, those standards are not as fixed. I’ve heard many stories of people talking to somebody in middle school, but never speaking to them again in high school.”

While that may be true, conflicting personalities aren’t always behind fractured friendships. It’s also due to life, in general. I’ve had a number of friends who I, unfortunately, don’t get to talk to as often because we have very different academic schedules, or we simply drifted apart with time. While saddening, it’s poetic in a sense, too. It’s typically not a black-and-white “I like you” or “I don’t like you” scenario, which may be uncomfortable to grapple with; having said that, finding peace with that unconventional relationship you may have with others is a significant step in maturity and brings forth an incredible sense of harmony.

On a more lighthearted note: What about the curriculum itself? How does classwork differ between middle school and high school?

The content students learn is drastically different between middle school and high school, bearing in mind that there are numerous high schoolers already embarking on college classes. Here are some of my science notes from an old science notebook: “Energy: the ability to do things. Examples: roller coaster, machine, humans.” Now, compare that with my current biology textbook: “The free-energy change of a reaction tells us whether or not the reaction occurs spontaneously… In 1878, J. Willard Gibbs, a professor at Yale, defined a very useful function called the Gibbs free energy of a system…symbolized by the letter G.” See a difference there? The second statement is a lot more to wrap your head around—at least to me.

This is apparent, too, in mathematics. In middle school, I learned about area and slope. “What is the height of a triangle with base 20 mm and area 180 mm^2?” worksheets would ask. Now, my calculus notes read, “Relative extrema for any function must occur at a critical number… if f is continuous on a closed interval [a, b], then f has both a minimum and a maximum on the interval.” How did we get here? No wonder why 56 percent of high schoolers are stressed! (A joke, but a reasonable one…)

Life begins to feel overwhelming once we are conscious of the world around us, but only with this knowledge are we able to fully appreciate the treasures life offers. It is true that a harsh winter makes you appreciate a bountiful spring. Middle and high school are both ages for self-discovery, but the people you are at those two stages of life may vary greatly with the wisdom you gain and the morals you adopt. In light of that, middle school and high school are two distinct, yet essential, pillars of childhood. Following this era of rapid growth, more growth is to come. It’s easy to get caught up in the tumultuous series of events, but it’s important to not lose sight of how precious the present is.

Now, with that out of the way, I need to get back to (trying to) understand my calculus notes…

Middle school work compared to high school work. Spot the differences!

Photos by Helen Xia

The Emmitsburg High School (EHS) Association is accepting scholarship applications. Four $1,000 scholarships will be awarded in May to deserving students. Any Catoctin High School senior or graduate who is enrolled in an institution of higher learning is eligible if he/she resides in the Emmitsburg School District; this includes Emmitsburg 21727, Rocky Ridge 21778, and Taneytown 21787 (Taneytown boundary is determined by Bridgeport on Rt. 140). Applicants may apply each year as long as they are enrolled in an institution of higher learning.

Selection is based on having a 3.0 or higher GPA, being a full-time student, presenting two letters of recommendation, and pursuing higher education (four-year college, community college, or technical school). No GPA is required for full-time technical school.

Applications may be obtained by contacting the guidance department at Catoctin High School (Mike Marquez at 240-236-8082). All applications must be received by May 1, 2023.

Thurmont Grange #409 is offering two scholarships to any 2023 Catoctin High School graduating seniors who will be attending a technical or trade school, community college, or four-year college.

Applicants are required to submit one letter of recommendation, an essay about how furthering your education will have a positive impact on your community, and your official high school transcript.

Scholarships will be awarded on May 31, 2023. Applications may be obtained by emailing or contacting the Catoctin High School Guidance Department at 240-236-8100.

All applications must be received by April 30, 2023.

The Distinguished Graduate Committee at Catoctin High School is now accepting nominations for the 2023 Distinguished Graduate Awards. 

Nominations for this year must be submitted by May 1. For information regarding the Distinguished Graduate program and nomination forms, visit the Catoctin High School website at call Catoctin High School at 240-236-8100.

Ed and Helen Reaver (pictured sitting on the right) pose with their family, Mother Seton School Principal Dr. Kathleen J. Kilty (fourth row, far left), and Mother Seton School Librarian Teri Monacelli (third row, far left) after the blessing and dedication of the newly constructed Ed and Helen Reaver Family Media Center.

A longtime goal for the Mother Seton School community was to integrate the existing library, built in 1965, as part of the original building, with the computer lab to create a modern, versatile media center. Thanks to the generosity and hard work of our students, families, and benefactors, as well as grants from The Knott Foundation and The Delaplaine Foundation, we are pleased to announce the official opening of the new Ed and Helen Reaver Family Media Center on February 3, 2023.

“Our old computer lab was outdated, small, and closed off from the rest of the school,” said Kathleen Kilty, Ph.D., principal of Mother Seton School. “The new media center is at the heart of Mother Seton and has breathed new life into how we are able to integrate technology into learning.”

The original space was expanded by over 220 square feet to create a nearly 1,500-square-foot space. It is centrally located and now has two separate entrances/exits to facilitate ease of movement between classes.

The Ed and Helen Reaver Family Media Center is staffed full-time and houses a library of 11,000 books and 30 audiobooks; digital resources for student learning, such as devices for 1:1 computational learning; technology for presentations and screenings, including a state-of-the-art Promethean Board; and five high-powered computers for activities to develop digital citizenship. For example, the Cyberpatriots Cyber Security Club meets in the media center and students use the resources there for robotics, coding, and 3D printing.

Danielle Jackson

2023 FFA Butchering Day

Held February 10 at Catoctin High School

Photos by Danielle Jackson

The scent of wood burning under kettles, the sound of fire crackling, and the sharpening of knives permeated the early morning air at the annual Catoctin FFA chapter, and alumni Hog Butchering Day. The traditional event took place this year on Friday, February 10, at Catoctin High School. The FFA butchering day is something that families and community members in and around the Thurmont area know and celebrate. They use this time to further strengthen the bonds within this tight-knit community that is nestled within the Appalachian Mountains. Although the event of a family butchering is fading into something that you don’t commonly see anymore, the Catoctin High School FFA and Alumni Chapters are committed to preserving the tradition and teaching the next generation the importance of knowing where their food comes from.

This is estimated to be the 35th year that the school has held this event. Generations, young and old, come to help and participate (myself included, once as a Chapter member and now as an Alumni member). Approximately 100 Chapter, Alumni, and community members participated in this year’s butchering.

This event is held as a fundraiser for the Catoctin FFA Chapter, and the proceeds go toward the Chapter and Alumni banquet that is held in May. This year, the Chapter and Alumni processed 23 whole hogs, with an additional 340 lbs. of ribs, 850 lbs. of pork butts, 660 lbs. of boneless loins, and 560 lbs. of bone-in loins (pork chops) to fill presold meat orders. The hogs and extra meat are purchased from nearby businesses within the community. The hogs are killed, scalded, cleaned, and halved at a USDA-approved facility and then brought to the school. The Chapter, Alumni, and community members take care of the rest. Alumni and Chapter members began setting up grinders, saws, kettles, and tables the night before, and then they were back at the school before the sun rose the next day to get started.

The annual event is also an educational experience that ties in to other areas of the school curriculum as well, such as math, science, photography, social studies, and history. Throughout the day, Catoctin High School teachers, staff, students, and classes visited the butchering to observe and learn how this process is done from start to finish. Some teachers even made assignments for their classes about the butchering. This also lets students see all of the hard work that goes into a butchering and how food is put on their own tables. And it also gives other students at the school a new and better appreciation for agriculture.

Lunch was provided by Alumni members who brought crockpots full of delicious food to share. One of the main lunch options was our very own sausage from the butchering. Chapter members brought the loose sausage directly from the grinder to the skillet that day, a true farm-to-table process. Alumni members were frying up sausage patties for sandwiches.

There are so many people that come together to make this day happen. One of those people is Amy Jo Poffenberger, a teacher and FFA Advisor at Catoctin High School. This is her 13th year teaching agriculture studies at Catoctin High. She is also a former Maryland State FFA officer, and a Catoctin FFA Alumni member. Her favorite aspect of butchering day is that “It is more than a butchering. The involvement from the community and the entire school makes this an educational experience for all.”

Senior Abby Moreland, Catoctin FFA Chapter president, says that “Butchering Day is definitely a unique experience, and you always learn a lot.” She enjoys meeting new people every year and employing the organizational skills it takes to make it successful.

The annual FFA butchering is something that continues to grow with new generations, but it is also something that brings back former FFA members. I spoke with Daniel Myers, who is the head of the FFA Alumni Butchering Committee, a Catoctin FFA Alumni member, a past Catoctin FFA Chapter president, and a former Maryland State FFA officer, and asked him: “What is it like to plan such a large event for the school and community?”

Daniel responded, “Exhausting but rewarding to be able to help educate the kids on how pork is processed. This is such a big event, and it takes a team to pull it off. You also must be adaptable to be able to resolve any issues throughout the day.”

I also had the chance to speak with Kendall Abruzzesse, a past Catoctin FFA Chapter president, and now the current Maryland State FFA president. I asked Kendall what it was like to come back to her home chapter and help this year. She said, “It’s fun! There is a huge sense of pride coming back to this school!” She also brought along her officer teammate Teagan Flaherty, the Maryland State FFA secretary, who had never seen an in-person butchering before.

Orders and profits continue to grow every year for this fundraiser, but it wouldn’t be possible without the chapter, alumni, school, and community working together, communicating, adapting, and working as a team. Catoctin FFA is the only FFA Chapter in Maryland that has an annual hog butchering, and the Chapter and Alumni hope to keep this tradition going for many years to come.