Category: News

Congratulations Class of 2020: A Look Into the Online Ceremony

unnamedBy Jenna Kreh

Co-Features Editor

Senior year for the class of 2020 was not what anyone expected. These students left their school in March for a temporary “break” to keep students and teachers safe from COVID-19, which then turned into online schooling for the rest of the year. It is heartbreaking that our seniors did not get to finish out their high school experience the way they intended, and many are very disappointed. However, the Howard County Public School System has hundreds of amazing teachers that were not going to give up on the class of 2020. Teachers, students, and parents worked together to pull off a spectacular online graduation ceremony for the seniors this past Monday, June 8, at 3:00 PM.

The ceremony aired live on YouTube and could be viewed by each senior and their family in their own home. The commencement began with Hammond’s own Wind Ensemble playing various tunes, including the famous “Pomp and Circumstance. Hammond’s choir then took the screen to sing the National Anthem. Senior Kayla Hendershot remarked how incredible it was to see the band and choir come together online. Each talented student recorded their own piece of the music in their own home, keeping time with a sample in their headphones. Each video was then pieced together to show everyone on one screen at the same time. 

After the choir, senior Jaden Freshwater welcomed everyone to the ceremony with a charming and humorous speech. Next, viewers watched Seniors Juanita Mackey and Abdulmalik Shuaib introduce a few special guests. After that, it was back to another impressive performance of “Deep River” by Hammond’s Senior Choir and Chamber Singers. This performance was followed by two more Senior student speakers, Esmerelda Puga and Ananda Annan, and then two more performances: “When You Are Smiling,” by a Hammond Jazz Combo with Carlos O’Ryan singing, and “The Greatest Love of All,” sung by Torera Aloyinlapa and accompanied on the piano by Sarah England.

Calvin Ball, the County Executive of Howard County, then made a few commencement remarks, followed by Hammond Principal John DiPaula, with a presentation of the class of 2020. Howard County’s Superintendent, Micheal J. Martirano, gave a speech including a recognition of the graduates, and finally it was time for the presentation of the diplomas by Vicky Cutroneo, the Vice Chair of the Board of Education. Each student’s name was read while either a picture or video sent in by each of them was displayed on screen. Some students took quite an interesting take on their videos: one student even edited himself to look as though he was flying with a bunch of balloons! After each senior had their moment to shine, Senior David Aodu led the class of 2020 in the turning of the tassels. Each senior was asked to stand in their own home, and lift their tassel from the right side of their hat to the left. 

Finally, the Hammond Wind Ensemble played “Pomp and Circumstance” one last time, finishing off the ceremony. It was a bit sad to see Hammond’s seniors have to leave this way, but they are extremely grateful to have had such a fantastic staff to support them during this time. Senior Jordan Kreh even remarked that, while she would have liked a real graduation, it was nice to be able to watch from her own home. Students can also send the ceremony to friends and family, as the link will remain active. If you would like to join in on congratulating our Hammond seniors, here is the link to their commencement ceremony: A huge thank you goes out to Hammond’s amazing teachers, parents, and especially seniors. Congratulations, class of 2020! You did it!

Changes in Class Rank Coming for Class of 2021

By: Julia Moyer

News Co-Editor

Starting in the 2020-2021 school year, class rank will no longer be calculated and published according to Howard County Public School System’s policy 8020. This makes the Class of 2021 the first graduating class without rank on their transcripts. On behalf of HCPSS, Kami Wagner, Instructional Facilitator for School Counseling, said, “In talking with students across the county, there were clear connections between class rank and student stress levels.” she added that “while students also articulated that class rank can be a motivator, students were more in support of removal rather than support for continuing to rank.”

Changes in Class Rank

Class rank can become a label for some students. Image Source: The Hawkeye

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Last Week of School Info Update

By: Marissa Yelenik

Co-News Editor


Image Source: Houston County Board of Education

School cancellations due to the spread of Coronavirus, and Howard County’s shift to online schooling have heavily affected many school plans including the last day of school, everyday learning, and the grading system itself. As the end of the school year approaches, more and more questions have been answered, allowing students to prepare themselves as best they can.

On May 27, Maryland’s Board of Education approved Howard County’s request for a waiver of five school days. This will make the last day of school for the 2019-2020 school year June 23. The last three days of school, which will take place on June 19, 22, and 23, will be half days. Adjusted online schedules will be sent out to students for these dates. Despite any changes in this school year, there have not yet been any adaptations in dates for the 2020-2021 school year, making the first day of school August 25. 

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Standardized Testing in the Time of COVID 19: How College Board is changing AP testing and SAT administration

By Julia Moyer and Marissa Yelenik

News Editors

All information in this article is current as of May 11th, 2020

Because of school cancelations and stay at home orders both nationwide and internationally, the College Board has shifted Advanced Placement (AP) testing to an altered online format and canceled SAT administration through June. 


The new AP test will be a 45-minute online free response test for all subjects, which means all answers will be written and there will be no multiple-choice questions. Also, the content that could potentially be assessed on each exam has been abbreviated. Test questions will cover content that most AP teachers have covered by early March. The lastest testing dates and times for the new format can be found on the College Board website. Testing will occur May 11 through the 22. If for any reason a student cannot test that day (ie. illness, technology problems) they should plan to take their test’s makeup in June. 

Classes which usually have file submissions, such as AP art courses, will continue with that format. However, AP Computer Science Principles scores which are usually determined by a combination of performance task submissions and a multiple-choice exam will now only rely on the performance task submission. 

For the most part, students have said that the change in the format hasn’t changed how they are studying, but most are focusing entirely on free-response questions. AP Physics teacher, Mr. Sivell says that in his class AP review has mostly looked similar to previous years, “For the past two weeks we have been reviewing for the AP Exam by completing and self-grading past [free response questions].  This is exactly what we would have done if we were in class, but now we are doing it online through electronic copies instead of printed versions.” 

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The Road for the Class of 2020

By: Chinaza Ezeh and Kayla Hendershot

Online Editor and Editor-in-Chief

As we all know, COVID-19 has changed life and drastically affected our school year and the events us students at Hammond High were looking forward to. For seniors especially, events like Prom, the senior crab feast, graduation, Mr. HHS, and senior games for sports are all up in the air, leaving seniors disappointed and unsure of what is to come. As students are hopeful to go back to school, seniors are hopeful for their last year to be what they were looking forward to all four years of their high school experience. 

Recently, senior representatives from each high school connected virtually to discuss the future of senior activities. Hammond’s 2020 class president, David Aodu, attended this meeting and said, “We discussed different ways to make seniors feel valued and honored still for all their hard work and about possibly having some of the missed senior events due to corona at a later time with modifications.One big senior event that will be facing a big modification is the culmination of the high school career: graduation.


Check out the Hammond High School Twitter to see more pictures of our seniors celebrating their year with their yard signs!

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4th Quarter Becomes Pass/Fail

By Sarah Meklir and Leah Russell

pasted image 0 (1)Photo Credit: Atlantic Journal-Constitution

With the sudden rise of  COVID-19 and the nation’s attempts to minimize its spread, Maryland schools have resorted to online classes. This approach will be maintained until May 15th, when officials will reassess and make a decision regarding the rest of the school year. All of these changes have students scrambling, asking questions like, “what does that mean for fourth quarter grades? Finals? Or even overall grades for the year?” A global pandemic such as this is a new situation to everyone, therefore students, teachers, and administration alike are asking the same questions. More precautions are being taken in Maryland and Howard County as experts learn more about the virus, and the situation is developing on a daily basis. Though there are no answers set in stone at this time, there are many developments and decisions being made to answer questions about online schooling and grading policies.

Many families do not have the technology to adequately learn material and submit assignments for a grade. As a result, it is difficult to establish a sensible grading policy. Even when a student knows the material and completes all of their work, they may be unable to turn it in electronically due to a lack of sufficient technology. Because of this, Howard County has opted to change the grading system for the last quarter of the school year. Rather than the “A, B, C, D, E” grading practices normally utilized by HCPSS, fourth quarter grades will be maintained on a pass/incomplete basis. This means any overall quarter grade over 50% equates to “pass,” which will later be recorded as an “A” on transcripts. The new system has the potential to positively impact many students’ GPAs, while also relieving some pressure during this trying time. 

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Hammond to Host First Ever LGBT Conference in May

By Uma Ribiero

Co-News Editor

6d8f0ebb6d6fbdca8448b9e4f627019cPictured: Ms. DuPuis, Intern Baylee Slepko from Long Reach High School, and Uma Ribeiro

Thanks to the planning and organization of Ms. Danielle DuPuis and the support of the other SAGA club sponsors, Ms. Holly, Ms. Hart, and Ms. Reisman, Howard County’s first-ever Rainbow Conference will be held on May 15, 2020. Due to the coronavirus lockdown, the conference will now be held online and registration will remain open until May 12th. Registration is free and open to all. To fill out registration forms, go to the Rainbow Conference website, Registration is quick and easy!

Those who have already registered must register again for the online conference. The majority of the originally scheduled conference session presenters will be attending the online conference as well. The conference will celebrate pride among members of Howard County with LGBTQ activities and resources. Students and teachers from all Howard County schools along with family members and friends are all welcome to attend the conference. 

There are fourteen sessions to choose from, with panels focusing on a variety of topics, from LGBTQ literature and games to behind the scenes of the LGBTQ movement, activism, and experience. Those who register have the option of attending seven sessions, from nine am to four in the afternoon or choosing a few sessions throughout different times of the day. Registration also gives the option of receiving a free copy of the first edition of the Rainbow Vision Literary Magazine, complete with creative writing, artwork, photography, and additional resources. 

The conference not only gives Howard County residents a chance to celebrate their pride, but also allows for LGBTQ students and other members of the community to gain important resources and learn more about the LGBTQ-based events and activities which take place within Maryland. The conference also gives allies an opportunity to learn more about how they can support their LGBTQ friends and family as well. will be distributed to attendees,

Ms. DuPuis, who has been organizing the Rainbow Conference and securing sponsors, commented on what inspired her to plan this event. “Over the years at SAGA meetings, students would comment how they would love to meet up with other students from other schools, and also, as a sponsor, I was kind of like “I feel pretty in-the-know about a lot of things,” but I was also learning a lot of new things from students, like things that were going on around the school, and I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if we had a conference that could bring students from other schools here, so other LGBTQ students and their allies could meet up, get together, and meet one another and plan, but also that would inform these students as well as other educators about LGBTQ issues in and outside of the school system. I feel like it’s one of those things that you don’t know what you don’t know and the more that we bring awareness to these things, the better. For instance, I had not even heard about non-binary genders until like two years ago, so…to be able to have other teachers and educators come and not feel judged for maybe not knowing proper [LGBTQ] protocol and be able to attend these sessions that are going to be offered that will help them in the classroom and just in general, I think is going to be good.”

Hammond students have been looking forward to the conference for months. Sophomore Kelly Kujawa commented, “I am really excited for the Rainbow Conference because it provides an opportunity for members of the LGBTQ+ community to be surrounded by members of the Hammond and Howard County community who support them!”

Sophomore Jordan Galeone added on, “I’m looking forward to the Rainbow Conference…because of the opportunities it holds for me.”

For more information and updates about the conference, be sure to follow @hcpss_pride on Instagram and Twitter.

Changing the Code: Dress Code Changes Allow Students to Have More Freedom of Expression

By: Jenna Kreh

Staff Writer

New this year at Hammond, the dress code has been altered to require only what many would call the bare minimum, allowing students to wear almost anything they would like. Hats and hoods are now permitted, as well as any size straps on shirts and tank tops (spaghetti straps) or no straps at all (sleeveless). This new dress code is beneficial to students, as it allows for a more personal self expression and less concerns for both students and staff as to what is acceptable to be worn in the school environment.

The new dress code asks only that students wear a shirt, pants, and shoes that cover their chest, midriff, pelvic/groin area, and buttocks. This change gives students much more freedom, and it takes the pressure off of students to think about whether their outfit is school-approved. It also allows the schools’ staff to focus on other matters in the school, since less students will need to be sent home or spoken to about their clothing.

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Pizza Wars Jumpstarts Spirit Week

Sarah Meklir 

Staff Writer

This year, Pizza Wars marked the official start to Hammond’s 2019-20 Spirit Week. The four classes competed to see who could eat the most pizzas by the end of the night. After a hard-fought battle—and a whole lot of pizza consumed—the final tally was as follows: 

First Place: 2020

Second Place: 2022

Third Place: 2021

Fourth Place: 2023

Seniors in the class of 2020 prevailed by a large margin. After taking an early lead, they sustained that initial momentum throughout the competition. 29 seniors independently devoured entire pies and made it onto the “Bragging Board.” Three students went above and beyond the call of duty, eating two 8-slice pies each. 

Isaiah Olujide, one of those three, predicted the win for his class. “Of course the seniors are gonna end up on top. That’s not even a question, that’s for sure.” This sentiment was shared by Malik Shuaib, fellow senior and dual-pie consumer. “2020 is [going to win], obviously. We’re winning right now, and we’re gonna keep winning. That’s the motto for this year.” 

Across the competition, most people with their names on the “Bragging Board” shared two thoughts. First, humans aren’t designed to eat full pizzas in one sitting:

“[I ate] An entire pizza. I’m not feeling good. Not feeling good at all.” -Sam Van Bemmel (2022)

“I ate a whole pizza, and then almost a second. [I feel] dead inside.” -Ali Ahmed (2022)

“I ate a whole box. Yeah, I’m hurting right now.” -Riley Woodward (2023)

But the upperclassmen felt the sacrifice was worth it for the good of their class:

“I ate two whole boxes of cheese pizza. I feel horrible. But I also feel great because it’s a point scored for my class.” -Malik Shauib (2020) 

“I ate one whole pizza. Cheese. It felt… empowering.” -Skylar Shaffer (2021)

“I ate 16 slices, two boxes. I’m feeling terrible, but… it’s worth it.” -Isaiah Olujide (2020)

The class of 2022 won second place in an upset over 2021. “It was neck and neck between the sophomores and juniors,” explained Ms. Pfanstiel, who coordinated the event. 

Mr. Livieratos expressed his hope for the sophomores to extend their upward trajectory into Spirit Week. “These sophomores are very organized and what they got done on their first day of spirit week was super impressive. I think it’s going to be an amazing competition. The freshmen are great this year, and as always, the juniors and seniors are gonna do awesome. It’s anyone’s game, so I’m excited to see who ends up on top.” 

In the end, however, Mr. Livieratos remained dedicated to the seniors. “The seniors will dominate…. Personally, I ate one pizza. It went to the senior class.” His airtight reasoning? “Because.” He eventually elaborated with, “Because I love them.” 

Malik Shauib commented on this as well, explaining the teacher’s motives. “He actually ate a pizza for our class. We didn’t do anything, he just loves our class. Yeah.” Both opted not to respond to claims of bribery. 

Now that Spirit Week’s begun, students can look forward to six days of intense competition and inexorable amounts of Hammond spirit. When asked about what makes Hammond’s Spirit Week so special, Vice Principal Mr. DiFato replied, “Literally everyone participates. Some schools, they do wacky-tacky day and you have maybe 50% participation… But here, you get pointed out if you don’t dress up. Everybody participates every day, and they go all-out. The seniors take the time to tell the freshmen what to expect so they know to go all-out. And that’s unique.” 

Students agreed. According to senior Isaiah Olujide, “Spirit Week is a time where we can all come together and participate in one holistic activity we all bond over.” Junior Skylar Shaffer added, “We pave the way for every other Howard County spirit week. No other school can compare to us. We are the mother of spirit week in Howard county.” 


2019 Brings Positive Change and Student Collaboration to Hammond High School

By: Isabel Berry and Sarah Meklir

Staff Writers

The Student Government Association (SGA) and Student Leadership Cadre (SLC) will be collaborating this school year to improve student life at Hammond. The first joint Student Government Association and Student Leadership Cadre meeting took place during Beartime in the second week of school. At this meeting the two groups discussed their plans for the year. 


Photo Credit: Avery Moe

When asked about the meeting, assistant principal, Mr. DiFato expressed his hopes for the two organizations. “I feel like it went well; we asked Dr. DiPaula to come in and speak to our student leaders about the importance of student voice. And he really reiterated that it’s their school, and we are here to help them do whatever they want to accomplish.” At the meeting, students shared their ideas for the upcoming school year with the intention of boosting spirit and encouraging communication between the students and staff.

Out of many proposed ideas, one involved implementing a new year-long extension of spirit week called “King of the Den.” Similar to the “House Cup” from the Harry Potter universe, each month there will be dress-up days and events to boost morale. Participating in these events will give each class the opportunity to earn points, which will be counted up at the end of the year. The winning class will receive a prize. 

One of the most important and well-known aspects of student life at Hammond is our Spirit Week. The President of Student Government, Malik Shuiab, expanded on a few ideas they had discussed, focusing on introducing the freshmen to Hammond’s famous Spirit Week and emphasizing its importance. “For spirit week this year, as I’m sure some of you guys have heard already, it’s going to be a bit different… SGA members are going to walk around to all of the 9th grade english classes and tell them what it means to be at Hammond, what it means to be in Hammond’s Spirit Week.” This approach would grant the underclassmen a smoother transition into all of Hammond’s traditions.

In addition to indoctrinating them into our culture, some feel Student Government and the Student Leadership Cadre should work towards improving programs that support both students’ voices and their mental health. Shuiab, a senior, supports this goal. “SGA means a lot to me because I care a lot about the school, and … I can [state] my opinion and have my voice be heard in decision making, in things that I wasn’t necessarily involved in freshman or sophomore year, and it’s really important to me. SLC is also really important as they give students a reason to believe their voice actually matters.” 

This new approach is also supported by junior Camryn Johnson. Johnson, who is both varsity soccer captain and 2021 Class President, is also involved with SGA and Tri-M Music Honor Society. Johnson spoke about the challenges that students face at the start of a new school year, “I think there’s a little bit of a mental health issue across the juniors and seniors. As it gets to be a little bit more difficult [workload-wise], as well as for the underclassmen because starting a new school is difficult.” She suggested involving students, administration, and student services in open meetings where students could share, “…the best ways that we can manage stress and how they could help us.” This could greatly assist students and could help take Hammond to the next level when it comes to mental health care for the student body. 

As classes ramp up and students adjust to new responsibilities, it is good to see groups like Student Government Association and the Student Leadership Cadre working together to provide a safe, supportive environment where students can learn to work positively and effectively with staff members. Dr. DiPaula, who presented at the first meeting, described his aspirations for the alliance between the two groups. “The premise behind this is for students to take the lead, and for the staff, adults, and principal to get them to do what it is that they want to do… The first meeting was good, but it was a lot of me talking, and I think in the future, it’s going to be more of the students talking.” They will be working together to create positive change. This year, their collaboration will benefit not only the student body, but the Hammond community as a whole.