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Howard County Celebrates Successes for Children

April 27, 2018
Media Contacts:
Mark Miller, Administrator, Office of Public Information, 410-313-2022
Debbie Yare, Office of Children and Families, Department of Community Resources and Services, 410-313-1940

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman and the Department of Community Resources and Services honored individuals and programs that have made a difference in the lives of children at the 19th annual “Celebrating Successes for Children” ceremony held last night. Coordinated by the Department’s Office of Children and Families, the ceremony recognized the contributions and dedication of more than 60 honorees, including child care providers, local businesses, teachers, volunteers, students and coaches. Category winners included:

Infants and Toddlers: Karen Hall, Women & Children's Services, Howard County General Hospital
As Clinical Coordinator of the Howard County General Hospital’s Maternal Child Unit, Karen works with a team of health professionals to update procedures to protect newborns and provide families with critical information on safe sleep practices. Her team utilizes social media to spread awareness about the importance of following safe sleep practices as well as created a bulletin board in the Hopsital’s Maternal Child Unit where they share information. 

Preschool-Age Children: Amy Aloi, Regional Early Childhood Center, Bollman Bridge Elementary
Amy makes certain each student feels heard, encouraged and valued, while promoting inclusion and celebrating diversity. In her classroom, which is comprised of peer group and special needs students, Amy teaches the peer group to help take care of the special needs students. In turn, her special needs students learn to model the behaviors of their peers. Amy infuses her curriculum with stories that highlight and celebrate differences, stimulates conversation, teaches tolerance and demonstrates love.  

Elementary-Age Children: Thomas “TJ” Janasek, 3rd Grade, Bryant Woods Elementary School
A 3rd grade teacher at Bryant Woods Elementary School, TJ Janasek consistently lets his students know that they are important, worthwhile and capable of great success. Three years ago, TJ was concerned that male students had no after school activities, so he a started a Heroes Running program as a way to keep them healthy and busy. He now coaches both the Girls on the Run and Heroes Running programs at Bryant Woods. TJ is a true example of wanting the best for his students. He is kind, fair and accountable to his students, school and community.

Middle- and High School-Age Children: Journey, a Leadership Development Program 
Journey is a week-long youth leadership development program designed for rising 7th, 8th and 9th grade girls to help foster increased self-esteem and confidence. Founded by the Women’s Giving Circle – a fund of the Community Foundation of Howard County, Journey strives to break down stereotypes that girls face. Each year, 25 promising young women participate in peer-led workshops to develop leadership skills and build self-confidence. A robust scholarship fund ensures participation is not limited to just those who can afford it. Graduates of Journey are equipped with the necessary leadership skills, tools and motivation to help them enhance their schools and communities.

Mixed-Age Group: Gul Zeba Ahmed, Center for Peace and Spirituality USA
Gul Zeba Ahmed interacts with the children at the Center for Peace and Spirituality USA in a positive tone, always encouraging them to do their best. She is constantly looking for ways to boost children’s creativity and critical thinking skills. She does not judge or negatively critique anyone; rather, her mission is to spread peace across all faiths and beliefs. Her calming manner elevates the children’s energy and belief in themselves. She has worked with multiple faiths to understand their similarities and encourages all to come together to promote peace and cooperation. 

Making a Difference Youth Award: Nika Guth
Nika enjoys working with Howard County’s homeless population. She collects donations and assembles blessing bags which she delivers to homeless individuals throughout the county. She even keeps a supply of bags in her van in the event that she encounters someone when out on the road who is homeless. She enjoys making them smile and reminds them that they are human beings worthy of notice. Nika also teaches her peers about homelessness and encourages them to learn more about the homeless population in Howard County. 

O’Donnell Family Award: Fran Kroll, Howard Community College (HCC)
For the past 30 years, Fran Kroll has worked tirelessly to build educational and career opportunities for aspiring professionals in early childhood and teacher education. In fact, there is not an age or topic that has not been shaped and influenced by Fran's work. She was instrumental in establishing the Children's Learning Center at HCC, which provides care for the children of faculty, staff and students and serves as a lab school for the Early Childhood Education certificate and degree programs. Her retirement this spring will be a tremendous loss to Maryland's teacher education and early childhood development communities.