STARS in the making

Paula Lampton, and her husband, Ed, started program to recognize academic excellence

Paula Lampton, and her husband, Ed, started program to recognize academic excellence

April 03, 2007|by JANET HEIM

Editor's note: There are a lot of people you see around town that you recognize, but don't know anything about. People like...

Paula Lampton

Age: 57.

Occupation: Professional volunteer.

Hometown: Butler, Pa.

Where would you see Lampton? Paula Lampton has made a career out of community involvement. The mother of four grown children worked as a nurse, then traded that in to be a school volunteer, working with PTA and CAC at her children's schools.

Paula and Edward Lampton, a radiologist, built a house on Md. 66, choosing property so their children would attend Smithsburg schools. The couple were impressed with the athletic and band boosters at those schools, but felt there was little to recognize academic success.


In 1990, the Lamptons started the STARS program - Success Through Academic Recognition - at Smithsburg High School. They chose to align the program with the business community, because they felt businesses benefited most from having well-educated students.

Over the years, the program has evolved from a monthly recognition to a twice a year celebration for each semester at Smithsburg High. School faculty choose the students to be recognized and 130 to 140 students will be recognized at a breakfast in May.

Students at Smithsburg High are chosen either as Shining Stars, who demonstrate high levels of academic success, or as Rising Stars, who have shown the most improvement in a certain area.

Paula Lampton beams with pride as she points to the STARS Wall of Fame at Smithsburg High with photos of STARS recipients.

"The exciting part is that it stretches the entire length of the wall now," she said.

STARS then was introduced to Smithsburg Middle School, then spread to other county middle and high schools. It is currently in nine middle and high schools, Lampton said.

She added the beauty of the program is that each school runs the program the way that works best for them. Some schools have had the program and dropped it, because they didn't have the support of the principal or parents to keep it going.

At first, there was some resistance by students who didn't think it was cool to be recognized for academic success, Lampton said. Over time, though, that stigma has changed.

Now the Smithsburg High auditorium is filled with students, parents and teachers when there is a STARS celebration.

Lampton said she knew the program was a success when she started getting calls from parents whose children weren't chosen as STARS. Each student chosen receives a T-shirt and certificate, provided by the business sponsor.

"The most satisfying thing for me is that students do want to be recognized for their academic achievements. I hope the pride we instill follows them into other areas of their lives," Lampton said. "It's a simple program, but it seems to make a difference."

It's been almost 10 years since Lampton's youngest child graduated from Smithsburg High in 1997, but she continues to volunteer with the STARS program there.

"I'm still here because I love the program," Lampton said.

In addition, Paula Lampton has been involved with other community organizations, including serving as the Hagers-town YMCA board president, the Hagerstown Community College board, as chairperson of the Washington County Planning Commission, the Zoning Appeals Board and Leadership Washington County.

Hobbies: Lampton said reading and spending time with her four grandchildren are her favorite hobbies.

What does Lampton like best about Washington County? "I guess my favorite thing about Washington County is the people. I really enjoy the people. The people here are interested and interesting," said Lampton, who has lived in Washington County 28 years.

"We feel very fortunate to have raised our children here. The STARS program is our way to give back to Washington County and the education program," Lampton said.

If you know anyone in the community who might make an interesting Our Town feature, contact Janet Heim at 301-733-5131, ext. 2024 or e-mail

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