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(Enlarge) Installation Commander Col. Kenneth O. McCreedy presents tutor Eriqua Ratchford, 18, with a certificate of highest recognition for her service during the winter session of the scholars program.

Timothy Thames, a third grader at Harmon Elementary school, is a bit shy. When his teacher asks for answers to questions at school, Timothy seldom raises his hand. He also prefers to work on his own rather than with his classmates.

But all that changed when Tomika Silver, Timothy's mom, enrolled him in Fort Meade's Saturday Scholars program. "His teacher mentioned that now his hand is amongst the ones to go up and his group participation in school is up," Silver said of her 8-year-old son. "We definitely hear him more around the house." Silver also mentioned that the program helped Timothy earn an extra B on his interim report card.

Timothy was one of 33 students to graduate from the winter session of the Saturday Scholars program on March 18. The program is a six-week tutoring session sponsored by the Naval Information Operations Command (NIOC)-Maryland to help students in third, fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth grades prepare for the Maryland School Assessment test in reading and writing. No sixth graders signed up for the winter session.

The graduation took place at the School Age Services building on a sunny, bright Saturday morning. The audience was filled with proud parents, committed tutors and excited students. Installation Commander Col. Kenneth O. McCreedy and Capt. Paul J. Jaeger, commanding officer of NIOC-Maryland, handed out graduation certificates to students and certificates of highest recognition to 20 volunteer tutors.

"You guys had to give up a Saturday for six weeks. That's not easy. But what you got out of it was priceless," McCreedy told the students in his opening remarks. He said the program helped students expand their minds and spark their thirst for knowledge. "To get something, you've got to give something," McCreedy said of the students' sacrifice.

McCreedy praised the tutors from the Navy, Air Force and Meade High School for their dedication to their young charges. "You're richer for this experience," he said. "On behalf of the Fort Meade community, I say thank you for your time and effort."

Teachers recommend students for the tutoring program, which takes place in the fall and the winter. Tutors and students work together on Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon at the School Age Services building. Parents must consent to the program.

Linda Redwine Bell, Fort Meade's school liaison and coordinator of the program, said the self-esteem of the children enrolled in Saturday Scholars is raised in a short amount of time. "Students are nervous the first week, but they're happy the second week," said Bell. "They say, 'I like my tutor.' "

Several parents said they noticed improvements in their children's academic studies as a result of the program. Shelton Vaughn of Linthicum Heights said his daughter Kaeshel, 9, a fourth grader at Pershing Hill, experienced an overall improvement in her grades. The tutoring also improved her test taking skills, he said. "I thought it was fun and it helped me a whole lot," said Kaeshel.

Alicia Barksdale of Severn said her 8-year-old daughter, Amaya, improved her reading comprehension and vocabulary. "I thought it was good practicing for the MSA," said Amaya, a third grader at Van Bokklen Elementary School.

Third Class Petty Officer Alan McCowan, NIOC-Maryland, an eighth-grade tutor, volunteered for the program because he enjoys working with children. "I like to see their faces when they learn something new," said McCowan, noting that he intends to return as a tutor for the fall session.

Ensign Miranda Hren, NIOC-Maryland, also an eighth-grade tutor, said she believes she is making a difference. After several weeks in Saturday Scholars, she said students "become energized and realize what a good job they have done."

McCreedy read letters of congratulations from U.S. Rep. Ben Cardin, a Democrat representing Fort Meade and the surrounding area, and Sen. Paul Sarbanes, a Democrat from Maryland. He also invited several guests to the program including Nancy Mann, Anne Arundel County school superintendent; Command Chief Master Sgt. Alan Dowling of the National Security Agency; Eugene Peterson, representative District 32, Anne Arundel Board of Education; George Johnson IV, Anne Arundel County sheriff and Bruce Dickinson, director of Morale, Welfare and Recreation at Fort Meade.

Petty Officer Third Class Anthony Fenwick, Timothy's tutor, said he sees himself in the children he tutors. Fenwick said he was shy like Timothy when he was younger, but his confidence increased when he learned how to communicate with others. Like Timothy, he eventually blossomed.

Fenwick said he intends to tutor in the fall, if he is still assigned to Fort Meade. "Even when you give something, you get," he said.

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