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Bright Stars shine over Maryland

May 30, 1997

By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Staff Writer

The problems began during freshman year in high school, when frequent moves bounced Aaron Short between North Hagerstown and South Hagerstown high schools.

"It was hard to stay motivated and concentrated on what I was doing," said Short, 20, who found himself getting bad grades after being a straight-A student in elementary school and an average student in middle school. "I just gave up on myself."

Last spring, after four years of frequent absences and little work, Short found out he lacked four classes he needed to graduate from South Hagerstown High School.

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Instead of dropping out and taking the G.E.D. exam, Short said he decided to try it again the right way.

Now he's a distinguished honor roll student at South High, averaging at least 10 hours of homework a week in addition to 25 to 30 hours of work and lots of volunteer hours with Antietam Fire Company, he said.

Short's amazing turnaround as a returning senior this year brought him statewide accolades as one of 24 Maryland students honored at the 1997 Bright Stars celebration in Baltimore.

The annual awards ceremony highlights the achievements of participants in Maryland's Tomorrow, a statewide dropout prevention program, said spokeswoman Christine A. Rowett.

One student from each Maryland county and Baltimore City is selected for the award each year, Rowett said.

Another Washington County resident, Williamsport resident James Poffenberger, was recognized for his contributions to the program as a mentor to a South Hagerstown High School student in the early 1990s.

Both Short and Poffenberger traveled to Baltimore to receive their awards.

Short said he was stunned to be chosen for the award, which is another boost to the self-esteem that has been growing since he started trying this school year.

"I ask myself all the time, `Why didn't you do this your junior year, your sophomore year?' I kick myself," he said.

The first time around, Martin said, he went to school only when he felt like it and didn't do much when he was there.

It was frustrating for guidance counselor Pat Lamb, who had worked with Short since his freshman year.

"I couldn't seem to get through to him," said Lamb, who said she usually can reach students if they stick it out until senior year.

Lamb likes to think staying on Short all those years and being there when he needed her played a part in the change.

Although Short credits Lamb's persistence and the support of his fiance, Amy Linten, with helping him in down times, it was something he had to do himself, he said.

Short said he's looking forward to receiving his diploma, the ticket into welding school and a good job.

He said he plans to continue taking University of Maryland classes for certification through the fire department, where he has earned nearly 300 Student Service Learning hours in the past 18 months.

Looking back, Short said he realizes it's all about choices and wishes others in his shoes would ask for help before they dig themselves in as deeply as he did.

Poffenberger, 55, said he still doesn't know why he was chosen for his Bright Stars award since he hasn't been involved in the Maryland's Tomorrow program since 1994, when his student graduated.

He said he sees himself as a representative of all the committed mentors in the program.

The student represents a success story because he went from a troubled kid to a solid student and athlete, Poffenberger said.

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