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Community Members, Group Honored for Dedication to After-School Program Students

For Immediate Release June 27, 2011 Media Contact:  Karen Lubieniecki 301-490-7434 Karenlub@aol.com


MacPhee Award Winner Photo

Mary Zagaris Volunteer of the Year Award Photo


Columbia, Maryland…Two exceptional women and the Youth Council of the Howard County NAACP, whose dedication has provided young people learning opportunities they might otherwise have missed were honored June 9 at The Community Based Learning Centers Fifteenth Annual After School Banquet. 

Rhonda Jones, Chair, NAACP Education Committee and the Youth Council of the Howard County NAACP received The Carole MacPhee Community Service Award. The award honors those who have shown commitment and dedication to helping others achieve and/or overcome obstacles to build stronger, healthier and safer communities. It is named for the retired director of the Columbia Housing Corporation, which helped create the CBLC program.  Last year the Youth Council received a grant from the Comcast Foundation to start a literacy program for elementary students.  In one short year their Reading for a Lifetime initiative engaged more than 50 students and 15 volunteers at three CBLC centers. At least four times a month volunteers read new age-appropriate books to students and had them read.  Students got to keep the books. Many of the children who were reading below grade level at the start of the program are now at their target level.

Charlotte Waters, of the CBLC at Swansfield Elementary, is the 2011 Mary Zagaris Volunteer of the Year. The Mary Zagaris Volunteer of the Year is named in honor of one of our long-standing volunteers, Mary Zagaris, who more than 13 years ago turned up at Roslyn Rise and indicated she wanted to volunteer. The honoree reflects the spirit of volunteer dedication and commitment to children in this program that Mary Zagaris has exemplified.  For over two years Ms. Waters has been a constant figure in the lives of children attending the CBLC at Swansfield Elementary, through the AOK Mentoring and Tutoring, Inc program. Not only does she read to children, but she choreographs dance steps and always “goes the extra mile.”  

In addition to the two awards three local students received Elsie Walters Scholarships.  Each year Community Housing awards the Elsie J. Walters Scholarship to an adult continuing his or her education, and to a graduating senior high school student, both of whom are residents of the homes owned and managed by the Columbia Housing Corporation. The scholarships are named after Dr. Elsie Walters, Community Housing Executive Director from 1992 until February 1996. This year’s recipients were:

Desiree Towson - graduated from WLHS in 2011. She will be attending Norfolk State to study journalism. She dreams to work at National Geographic to write about wild animals. She also has been working with the Community Based Learning Center at Swansfield Elementary.  She acknowledges her grandmother, Mrs. Thomspon, her aunt Mrs. Williams, and the Site Coordinator, Mrs. Wilborn as the women who helped her realize how important an education is. She wants to continue their legacy by helping other children realize their potential.

Kwabena Yamoah - Graduated from WLHS and currently attends The University of Maryland at College Park; His current major is physiology neuobiology; He has held leadership positions as President of College Success Scholars, Outreach Coordinator, and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. When he becomes a physician, plans to educate our community about healthy living.

Amber Walters - daughter of Dr. Elsie J. Walters. She is currently attending Coppin State University and wants career in Criminal Justice and Information Systems. An avid reader (just like her grandmother) and an excellent writer. She loves movies and has a great sense of humor.


Since its inception in 1996, an estimated 1800 young people, and adults returning to school, have participated in the CBLC program. The program has approximately 125 students currently enrolled and operates at the Community Homes’ Roslyn Rise and Rideout Heath complexes, Swansfield Elementary School, Forest Ridge Apartments, Monarch Mills and at the Tiber Hudson Homework Club in the Hill Top housing community in Ellicott City.  Community Based Learning Centers are a collaborative effort between the Columbia Housing Corporation (CHC), the Howard County Public School System Black Student Achievement Program, HCPSS Office of Family Community Outreach, and the Department of Recreation and Parks.  ##

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