ESSEX—Eastern Technical High school held its virtual graduation last week where the school’s three valedictorians addressed their fellow classmates, a retiring teacher said farewell to his students and the principal and county superintendent congratulated the class for overcoming some unprecedented challenges their senior year.
“I am so proud of your hard work. You have been thrown a curveball that is historic and global,” Baltimore County Schools (BCPS) Superintendent Darryl Williams said at the start of the virtual ceremony.
“There is no playbook for what comes next. But, I believe in you and I am so impressed by your strength, creativity and determination. Lean on what you have learned about yourself through the year and during this crisis. There are so many answers that we don’t have but I know that you got this.”
The ceremony then transitioned to the three valedictorians who each got a chance to reminisce with their classmates on all the memories made at Eastern and give them some parting advice for their next chapters in life.
Mary Kumcheva spoke first and started off by thanking her parents and teachers for their support throughout the years.
“To my mom and dad, thank you for never hesitating to drive me to a school event and for reminding me that I needed to go to sleep when I was hunched over a text book at 3:00 a.m. To our teachers, we value your wisdom and care. Thank you for respecting us and for treating us like real people. To my fellow classmates, your presence matters. No matter what your path entailed, I am certain that your individual contributions to our school made it a better place.
Every student at Eastern genuinely loves this school and wants to be here and it shows through your dedication, your lively class participation, commitment to academic excellence and determination to succeed.”
Alexander Ramirez followed Kumcheva with his speech, which he dedicated to his grandfather, Carlos Ramirez Sr., who Ramirez said, was a hard-working man and is the reason why his family is able to call the United States their home.
“I’m incredibly proud of him and, although he was already incredibly proud of me, I am sure that he would be extra, extra proud of me if he could see where i am today,” Ramirez said.
He then advised his classmates to embrace both the good, and the bad moments they had in high school.
“We should look back at all the awesome things that have happened to us in the last four years. Although it is true that we must reminisce on all the positive events that happened at our time at Eastern, it is both the positive and negative aspects of our lives that shaped us into who we are today.
Breakups and embarrassing moments happen because they are part of the high school experience. We should not avert our eyes from such moments but we must gaze upon the past with unwavering determination and we should look toward our futures not with reckless abandon, nor with a petrified spirit, but with confidence, pride and dignity. Although I don’t know all the graduates on a personal level, I know that they are ready for what lies ahead,” Ramirez said.
Alexandra Minor was the last valedictorian to speak and told her classmates that they all have inspired her throughout her time at Eastern Tech.
“Every single Eastern Tech 2020 graduate inspires me endlessly, having already achieved so much. We are overflowing with inspiring athletes, musicians, artists, scholars, activists, unapologetic dreamers, free thinkers-overflowing with curiosity, optimism, creativity, determination, passion and most importantly love.
No amount of preparation can make a specific path set in stone. Change and uncertainty already has and will continue to make many reappearances in our lives. So, our ability to ‘go with the flow’ will truly be the real measure of our success- and may I say- we are already succeeding with the change that has been thrown at our entire world in the last couple of months. So, continue to work hard, strive for your dreams and do not be intimidated by the unknown,” Minor said.
Frank McGrath, a math teacher at Eastern Tech who is retiring after teaching at Eastern Tech for over 20 years also had a chance to speak to all the students and family members tuning into the virtual ceremony.
“If there is one lesson to learn from this pandemic situation, it is that events in life come at you quickly, very unexpectedly and are often very distasteful- you have to be able to deal with them in the present and move on.-This is what is going to make a mature adult of you,” McGrath said.
He then encouraged students to take risks in life in order to achieve their goals.
“As long as you act responsibly and realistically- you should be ok. But, you will never know if you can achieve anything if you don’t try. More times than none you will fall flat on your face and when that happens, you get yourself up, brush yourself off, and you don’t walk backward,” McGarth said.
Principal Michele Anderson was the last to speak and told the class of 2020 that saying goodby to students at graduation is always hard, but that this year it is especially so.
“We know that closure is important and that a virtual graduation doesn’t feel like a real farewell to a place where you have spent four years growing, changing, and becoming the outstanding young men and women that you are today. While I wish I could look each of you in the eye and shake your hand and say congratulations, these times do not allow for that.
It is not an exaggeration to describe this class as one full of leaders and talents with interest they use to make a difference. As a collective group more than 96 percent of the class of 2020 has decided to attend college, with over 65 percent committing to a four-year institution.
Additionally, they have earned an estimated 13 million dollars in scholarship offers with many graduates receiving full scholarships. Three students have elected to serve our great country with their commitment to join the armed forces. We thank you for your dedication and commitment and we wish you the very best and to be safe,” Anderson said.
In addition to the virtual ceremony, which can be found on the school’s website, Eastern Tech seniors also were able to pick up their diplomas and stand on a decorated stage outside of the school while their names were read off on a sound system.
Kamren Walton, an Eastern Tech 2020 grad, said despite their senior year getting cut short, he is glad the school was able to find a way to commemorate their graduation.
“At least we all get a diploma, at let we all got a chance to walk on the stage and have that feeling of hearing our name be announced,” Walton said.
Among the many great memories Walton said he has made at Eastern, one of the best was attending his first Homecoming game as a freshman.
“The day before the Homecoming game was just amazing and it was just so much fun being there because it was my first high school game-I just have so many good memories with my friends.”
Walton, who was a varsity basketball player for 4 years and a member of the National Honors Society at eastern Tech, said he will be attending University of Maryland, College Park in the fall where he will study Econ.
The Avenue News congrats all 2020 graduates and wishes them the best as they take their first steps into adulthood!
MIDDLE RIVER— A second protest was held outside of Vince’s Crab House in Middle River Monday due racist social media posts protestors say the owner has posted the past couple of weeks.
Monday was the first time Vince Meyer’s five crab houses had been open since last weekend, when nearly 100 people surrounded the restaurants in Middle River and Fallston to protest screenshots that had circulated of Vince Meyer’s, Facebook posts.
Old internet posts from the owner were posted to Facebook™, revealing racist comments made about black people. In another comment, he said that a large majority of his customers are black.
Meyer released an apology video and held a “customer appreciation day” on Monday where crabs were discounted to a dollar for the Middle River location only. Meyer and his family also started a GoFundMe page to make up for the lost revenue the Middle River location experienced when they were closed due to the first protest and COVID-19.
Rikki Vaughn, a Baltimore County business owner who was one of the protestors, said people want to have a “civil conversation” with Meyer—not discounted crabs.
“We set up a meeting to have an open dialogue with Vince and we were going to do it. Then when they found out we had the NAACP (The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) they canceled the meeting and over the weekend they started this, ‘Dollar Dollar Crabs Y’all’ special,” Vaughn said.
The Avenue News can not confirm or deny with the owners that protestors set up a meeting with Meyer. Meyer and his family have decline to provide any comment on the matter.
Vaughn said he believes it is important to support local businesses but said he is encouraging people to go to other crab houses and to not support a business whose owner, “openly called us [racial slur].”
Police officers at the protest told The Avenue News the protestors were peaceful and not breaking any laws. Meyer and his security guard said the protestors were supposed to stay away from the store front and that they were trespassing private property.
Vaughn spoke into his megaphone to say they were not trespassing.
“In their terms, we are uneducated and don’t know the law. But when you have some black folks who show up with some degrees behind their names that tell you the only way you can be considered trespassing is when the owner comes down here and tells us we are trespassing,” Vaughn said.
Vaugh, and all the other people protesting the crab house, said they will not stop boycotting until the Middle River location shuts down.
“We aren’t scared anymore. We wont disappear. We want a for sale and for lease sign on these doors.”
“I’m just sad because I thought the teachers were my friends.” That is what 11-year-old Jackson said after police searched his room in response to a call a school safety officer at Seneca Elementary school made earlier this month.
Courtney Lancaster, mother of Jackson, said the school safety officer called the police because a concerned parent and two teachers saw Jackson’s BB guns mounted on his wall in his bedroom during a Google Meet Class, took a screenshot of Jackson and notified Seneca Elementary Principal, Jason Feiler, about Jackson’s BB guns.
Lancaster said when the police showed up she was taken off guard and that even though they didn’t have a warrant to search her home, she agreed to let them in.
“I have always been taught to comply and I had nothing to hide and allowed them to look wherever they wanted to,” Lancaster said.
Lancaster said the police officers searched her home for about 20 minutes and found no violations and left without any further action.
“The officers that responded were appalled at the call and even commended the set up that my son has for his toys and commended him also on his respect and understanding of the BB guns,” Lancaster said.
“He is a boy scout. He is an outdoors, all-boy kind of kid and as his parents and by way of legal rights, he is allowed to own said guns. He is in his own home supervised by a parent.”
Lancaster said after the police left she reached out to the school and to the Baltimore County School Board to find out why nobody called her first before notifying police.
“The Principal and his teacher cited that ‘just as he cannot bring guns to school, he cannot bring them to virtual meetings as well and this is in the handbook,’” Lancaster said.
After a close review of the handbook, Lancaster said it did not address anything regarding virtual learning.
“Not to mention, he did not bring anything to this meeting and he is in his own home. [The BB guns] were simply in the background in our home, safely stowed in a room behind a closed door, with no ammunition, if you can even call it that,” Lancaster said.
Lancaster also asked BCPS if she could see the screenshot that was taken with her son. She said she was told that she could not see the photo because it’s not part of his student record.
Now she said her and Jackson both feel “extremely violated.”
“Screenshots are being taken of minor children in their bedrooms? How is this ok? I never consented to that,” Lancaster said.
The Avenue reached out to BCPS for comment. The communications department responded by saying, “our longstanding policy is to not debate individual circumstances through the media. There are multiple ways for families to share concerns with us. In general terms, the safety of students and staff is our chief concern, whether we are meeting in classrooms or via continuity of learning.”
Lancaster said moving forward she hopes other people will learn from her experience and avoid having to go through what her and her son did with the school system and the police.
“Virtual learning may work well for you, but make sure nothing in your home offends anyone and you may spend the next couple of weeks circumventing the invasion and violation that I did today. My child and my home will no longer be subjected to video to allow room for any other violation of my rights and how I legally manage my home.”