Skip to Main Content


Recent Comments

    2021-2022 MCSS Student Focus Group Members Announced

    2021-2022 Student Focus Group Announced

    Weeks before the 2021-2022 school year officially begins, members of a select group of twenty-five student leaders from across Maryland are already planning how to make the most of the year ahead while ensuring that Maryland’s K-12 schools remain as safe and supportive of student success as possible. 

    These student leaders are the recently-inducted members of the 2021-2022 Maryland Center for School Safety (MCSS) Student Focus Group (SFG). They follow in the footsteps of the twelve inaugural members of the group, whose one-year terms ended in June. 

    Realizing that the efforts, voices, and viewpoints of students may be the most important of all when it comes to any discussion focused on school safety, the Maryland Center for School Safety in partnership with the Maryland Association of Student Councils established the SFG during the 2020-2021 school year. 

    Unlike many fledgling groups, the inaugural SFG accomplished a great deal in its first year. The twelve passionate founding members worked hard to ensure that the group met consistently during the unprecedented 2020-2021 school year. Along the way SFG members provided MCSS with invaluable feedback about how it can better engage with students across the state. As an example, Safe Schools Maryland, the state’s anonymous school safety reporting system, which MCSS administers, has launched new engagement programs – including the Safe Schools Maryland Mentor Program and High School Chapter Program – as a direct result of SFG member input. SFG members were also able regularly to convey their priorities to the MCSS Advisory Board, which in turn provides recommendations that guide the work of MCSS, and participate in live conversations, which were shared on MCSS’s Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. 

    Inaugural SFG members also found time to dive deeply into timely and important school safety topics such as the role of SROs in Maryland schools and cyberbullying. 

    Inspired by the SFG’s early success – which only grew as the year progressed – MCSS set out to develop a streamlined and comprehensive application process to recruit an even greater diversity of future SFG members capable of building on the momentum of members of the group’s founding class. 

    When MCSS invited Maryland middle and high school students interested in creating positive safety-related change in schools across the state to apply to become members of the SFG last December, nearly 100 did!

    “We were thrilled to receive a huge increase in applications compared to the year before, especially considering the time-commitment required to apply,” said Kate Hession, Executive Director of the Maryland Center for School Safety.

    Each of the incoming twenty-five SFG members made it through a rigorous application, review, and selection process that required writing essays, asking a teacher to serve as character references, and taking part in a final interview with members of the SFG selection committee. 

    Before their terms officially began on July 1, new SFG members already met for an orientation meeting with Executive Director Hession and learned more about MCSS, Safe Schools Maryland, and the three SFG committees – Content Creation, Engagement & Outreach, and Legislative Affairs – that they can join this year in order to pursue their unique interests and school safety goals. As the summer unfolds, members will get to know each other better so that they can hit the ground running with both general meetings – a mix of guest/educational speakers and member updates – and committee meetings. 

    All members of the MCSS team are excited to work with and learn from members of the 2021-2022 SFG. These young adults are about to embark on a journey that will include learning more about the diversity of current school and student safety-related topics important to communities across the state and around the country, developing government relations and leadership skills, and gaining exposure to the inner workings of important state agencies and boards. 

    Congratulations to each new SFG member on your selection, and let’s make the upcoming school year the safest and most productive yet for Maryland’s K-12 students and schools.

    MCSS Student Focus Group Members: 2021-2022

    Melany Benites, Prince George’s County

    SFG Member Melany Benites smiling for the camera.

    Claire Cabral, Baltimore County

    Mason Carter, Frederick County

    SFG Member Mason Carter smiling for the camera.

    Emelia Crown, Baltimore City

    SFG Member Emelia Crown smiling for the camera.

    Lucinda Diehl, Carroll County

    SFG Member Lucinda Diehl smiling for the camera.

    Brendon Dunne, Worcester County

    SFG Member Brendon Dunne smiling for the camera.

    Panagiotis Fafalios, Baltimore County

    SFG Member Panos smiling for the camera.

    Lena Fisher, Frederick County

    SFG Member Lena Fisher smiling for the camera.

    Taylor Gepes-Carroll, Frederick County

    SFG Member Taylor smiling for the camera.

    Abigail Giroux, Baltimore City

    Photo Coming Soon

    Roah Hassan, Baltimore County

    SFG Member Roah Hassan smiling for the camera.

    Ye ji (Sophie) Kang, Howard County

    SFG Member Sophie Kang smiling for the camera.

    Julianna Lewis, Cecil County

    SFG Member Jules Lewis smiling for the camera.

    Peyton McDonald, Allegany County

    SFG Member Peyton McDonald smiling for the camera.

    Henry M., St. Mary’s County

    SFG Member Henry M. smiling for the camera.

    Jordan Mueller, Anne Arundel County

    SFG Member Jordan Mueller smiling for the camera.

    Bethany Niehaus, Dorchester County

    SFG Member Bethany Niehaus smiling for the camera.

    Paige P., Calvert County

    SFG Member Paige P. smiling for the camera.

    Jack Putnam, Frederick County

    SFG Member Jack Putnum smiling for the camera.

    Raine Schultze, Frederick County

    SFG member Raine Schultze smiling for the camera.

    Heidi Stephens, Cecil County

    SFG Member Heidi Stephens smiling for the camera.

    Pranshu Tyagi, Montgomery County

    SFG Member Pranshu Tyagi smiling for the camera.

    Schuyler Ward, Anne Arundel County

    SFG Member Schuyler Ward smiling for the camera.

    Hailey Wildesen, Garrett County

    SFG Member Hailey Wildesen smiling for the camera.

    Claire Woynerowski, Anne Arundel County

    SFG Member Claire W. smiling for the camera.