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Student Work

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Higher Learning Student Opinion Piece for The Carroll County Times

Aside from some grammatical corrections, this opinion piece was written solely and collectively by the Higher Learning middle school students. The students paired up and each group was responsible for writing a section of the piece to be submitted to The Carroll County Times. I submitted the article on July 17th but was told by the editor that they do not accept opinion pieces from students. I think the absence of young voices does our community a disservice. Nonetheless, here is their work! –Dr. Roxanna Harlow

July 15, 2010


By Higher Learning Middle School Students: Ferrious Ashford, 11; Michael DeLoach, 11; Keont´e Garrett, 12; Mischka Johnson, 12; Tiara Jones, 11; Tiffany Jones, 13; Ryan Kwaku-Mensah, 14; Kevin Kwaku-Mensah, 11; Tameem McClinton, 12

Sitting in front of the t.v. all day. Talking, texting, video-game playing. Hanging around and doing nothing at the mall. This is what teens do for fun in Westminster. Not very much! More fun and more teen activities is what we need.

There are not enough teen activities in Westminster. When teens get bored they do stupid things like drugs, alcohol, sex, stealing, fighting, etc. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 15% of the Westminster population is 10-19 years old. That’s over 2,000 teenagers, which means a lot of damage they can cause if they don’t have a positive outlet.

We have a solution. Imagine walking down the street and seeing a beautiful, invigorating teen club! One that helps teenagers get their minds off of bad things but also helps them focus on good things. This is our philosophy: a teen club that gives teens positive things to think about other than school and gets them off of the street. A teen club where teens from all backgrounds, all walks of life come together and dance and socialize as one.

Westminster currently has a Boys and Girls Club at the Westminster Community Center on Union Street. They provide after school and summer activities for children. However it is geared toward children of all ages and not specifically to address the social needs and wants of teenagers.

A teen club would be a place where teens could go to have fun, dance, socialize, and get out of the house and off of the streets. In the morning the building could be used for tutoring and college preparation, a job center for youth, and in turn help the community. It would also provide jobs for the residents of Carroll County.

A teen club could lead to problems like fights or noise but there could be security so that wouldn’t be a problem. The teen club would be like a place to party but without the drugs and alcohol so that the teens who attend the club will not be influenced in a bad way.

There is an empty building at Green and Center streets where it could be held. Let’s put it to good use. A teen club (and other social activities) would be highly appreciated by our youth because we need more to do in town!

Teens do dumb things to satisfy their interests. The solution is a teen club where teens can hang out and express themselves. If you’re tired of their bad behavior, bad grades and other things, what do you say about having a club for teens in Westminster? We need your help to make the difference!


Higher Learning Poems

A Selection from the Higher Learning Fall 2009 Saturday Program


This form of Japanese poetry has a three line, 5-7-5 syllable format where the first line is 5 syllables, the second is 7, and the third line is 5 syllables. The challenge is to evoke emotion and imagery through simplicity. Traditional haiku are about nature; however the 5-7-5 format can be adapted to express ideas on any topic.

Higher Learning in Any Weather
by Samantha and Kevin Kwaku-Mensah and Trae Watties, ages 16, 11 and 11

Even in the rain
We still have to do our work
Leaders to become.

Higher Learning Mental Marveling
by Tameem McClinton, age 12

I do want to go.
Need to marvel mental
So watch me go, go!

Higher Learning in the Morning
by Samantha and Kevin Kwaku-Mensah and Trae Watties, ages 16, 11 and 11

I am real sleepy.
But it's all good in the 'hood
'Cause now I'm smart too.

Higher Learning
by Rodney McClinton, age 14

Done by our Harlow
This program makes a difference.
I love this program.

The Rain
by Rodney McClinton, age 14

The way it comes down
The fury and strength of rain
At times calm and swift.

Additional Higher Learning Poems

Higher Learning Is…
by Lawrence Smith, age 13

intelligent, helpful
interesting, cool, creative
entertaining, nice

Thoughts on Higher Learning
by Ryan Kwaku-Mensah, age 13

Higher Learning
Is interesting. It is a
Great way to learn.
How can you not be
Entered in Higher Learning? It
Rocks. I
Love coming to see my friends sometimes there.
Also funny. They sometimes have a
Not that
It gets too
Noisy or crazy. Higher Learning is

by Chloe Goode, age 13

Love is when you have some peace.
Peace is when you do have happiness.
Happiness is your life.
Life is what you do with it while you live.
Faith is when you believe. In who or what,
It's up to you.
Hope is when you believe you will make
It through whatever you do.
Heart. Heart means you care unconditionally.
Broken never should you be.
Overcome challenges no matter what you want to be.
Love, Peace, Happiness, Life, Faith, Hope, Heart, Broken.
These make up life.
What you do with them is up to you.

*Chloe wrote the poem Life during the 2009 Summer Program and recited it at the end of program ceremonies.

Other Work

How To Talk To Tweens

by the Higher Learning Middle Schoolers, Summer 2009

Sometimes parents and grandparents and grownups have trouble talking to or interacting with middle-schoolers or tweens, as we are sometimes known.

People complain that we are lazy and rude and talk back. That's true in some cases.

But often our communication problems are the result of misunderstandings.

So, to clear the air and help improve communications, here are some practical suggestions on how to talk to us and how to help move toward better relationships.

Don't be embarrassing!

This is the No. 1 problem tweens have with their parents, no question about it.

We really hate it when you "act hip and cool," show other kids our baby pictures, hang out and pretend to be one of the gang. Don't try so hard. That just makes us want to laugh at you.

Don't use funny voices and make faces when you're talking to us in front of our friends.

And you know those cute little nicknames you have for us? Can you please not use them when our friends are around? We'll never live down "Sweet Cheeks" or "Babycakes" or even "Peanut." Everyone will adopt the nickname and our lives at school will be torture for weeks.

It's really awful when parents and grandparents start telling stories about when we were little and rode our tricycle naked through the neighborhood, or when we pooped in the bathtub when we were just a baby. Gross. Plus it's ancient history. We're so much more grown up now.

For that matter, don't tell us about your childhood either, especially not when we have friends over. We know they hadn't even invented color television yet, but do you have to remind us all the time?

Also, don't put labels on our underwear. That is really embarrassing when we're changing for PE, or at some school-organized trip. Do YOU have your name on your underwear?? Wouldn't you be embarrassed if you did and someone saw it at the gym or the doctor's office? After all, who would lose their underwear - and under what circumstances? Really!

Don't make us wear dorky hats or hit piñatas when we have a birthday party. That was fun when we were little, but we're done with that phase. Been there, done that. Moving on.

And it might have been cute when you made our clothes when we were younger. Now? Not so much. Please don't make clothes for us.

Save chores for after friends go home. Nobody likes to take out the trash, clean out the litter box or pick up their room when their friends are visiting. We promise we'll be much more cooperative if you could just wait until they leave to nag us about those chores.

And if we do something wrong, please wait to punish us until after our friends have left. Really, it's not a reality show, after all!

Oh, and remember how you used to write us little notes in our lunchboxes? Just stop now. It's embarrassing to pull out your lunch and have a little note from Mom in there with the PBJ and chips. Yuck. Our friends will tease us all day, and probably tomorrow too.

The Talk

We know that people tell you that you should have "the talk" with us about all those important things like sex and drugs. You're probably not looking forward to it, and neither are we. So, let's just skip it, or get it over with quickly, okay?


R.E.S.P.E.C,T - find out what it means to me…

We know you expect us to respect you, but often it seems like you don't give that respect back to us. We think we should be respected because we're not kids anymore.

Try to really listen to us when we're explaining something or asking for something. Our opinions should matter to you too.

Treat us like people would treat you, or like you would like to be treated. Quit the name-calling because what goes around comes around.

When you're being bossy and demanding, it only makes us want to get as far away from you as possible.

Treat us as the individuals we are.

Responsibilities and Freedom

Give us privileges but also responsibilities. We're smarter than you think. Give us a chance to prove that we're growing up and can do more things.

Let us have a little bit of freedom. Let us go and hang out with friends at a movie or the mall occasionally. We're not doing anything bad. We're just hanging out, talking and catching up.

Don't just assume something based on a previous mistake. We deserve a second chance, and sometimes a third and fourth. We know we make mistakes, but if you let us � we can learn from them. Maybe we'll have time to think about what we did wrong, and apologize.

Let us stay up later, or at least give it a chance. The worst that can happen is that we'll be tired in the morning. But we'll try not to be grumpy since you finally let us stay up and watch that special movie. And if we are, you can always remind us, right?

Let us clean up our own rooms and stuff. Don't invade our privacy.

Younger siblings

This is another area in which we often have conflicts with our parents.

Don't take the side of younger siblings in fights just because they're younger.

Don't make us be in charge, just because we're older. It just creates problems with our little brothers and sisters.

Please don't make us play with or watch the young siblings when our friends are around.

If younger brothers and sisters give us space when we need it, we'll be more willing to do things with them later! We promise.

We also need more privacy these days - especially in front of older relatives and younger brothers and sisters.

Different strokes for different folks

What's fun for us is not fun for you. We love to hang out at the mall with our friends and you like to sit around and watch movies. Sometimes, we just want to run for our lives when you say you want to "spend time" with us. Don't you remember being this age and how much you wanted to be with your friends?

We like loud music. Just because it hurts your ears doesn't mean it hurts ours.


We think you punish us too often - and too harshly.

Thanks to Andrea Shalal Esa who worked with us and typed up what we wrote!



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