2021-2022 MCSS Student Focus Group Members 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
Claire Cabral, Baltimore County
Mason Carter, Frederick County
Emelia Crown, Baltimore City
Lucinda Diehl, Carroll County
Brendon Dunne, Worcester County
Panagiotis Fafalios, Baltimore County
Lena Fisher, Frederick County
Taylor Gepes-Carroll, Frederick County
Abigail Giroux, Baltimore City
Photo Coming Soon
Roah Hassan, Baltimore County
Ye ji (Sophie) Kang, Howard County
Julianna Lewis, Cecil County
Peyton McDonald, Allegany County
Henry M., St. Mary’s County
Jordan Mueller, Anne Arundel County
Bethany Niehaus, Dorchester County
Paige P., Calvert County
Jack Putnam, Frederick County
Raine Schultze, Frederick County
Heidi Stephens, Cecil County
Pranshu Tyagi, Montgomery County
Schuyler Ward, Anne Arundel County
Hailey Wildesen, Garrett County
Claire Woynerowski, Anne Arundel County