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A night when students show they're focused

When the stage curtain opened at the beginning of Middletown Area High School’s Honors Night on Thursday, May 19 in the Middletown Area Middle School auditorium, it revealed a heartwarming sight: the National Honor Society, three tiers of students committed to scholarship, academics, and making the best out of their lives.

Sixteen new members were inducted into the society in a solemn, and short, ceremony. Middletown formed its chapter of the National Honor Society in 1929, about eight years after the society sprung into existence nationally. Just think how many students over time have been a part of it.

For those skeptics who say academics aren’t taken as seriously as athletics: Attend the school’s Honors Night – Lower Dauphin and Steelton-Highspire high schools have their own celebrations, too – and you might change your mind. There are young people who have taken their education very, very seriously, and have seized the opportunities and joys that their school offers – opportunities to lead in student government, excel in sports, inspire with music. They are more focused than you know.

Middletown students collected scholarship money from 45 local scholarships and awards, many created in honor of a former teacher, MAHS alumnus or sports booster club.The amount topped $58,000 – and that doesn’t include scholarships from universities and outside sources. You can find a list of the winners in this edition of the Press And Journal.

Local high schools will hold their commencement ceremonies in the next couple weeks – you can find the photos of seniors poised to graduate in our special section in this edition – and it seems quite a few already know what they want, and how to get an education to achieve it. That focus was palpable in the middle school auditorium as student after student marched up to the stage to collect their scholarship award.

Before Middletown’s Honors Night was over, the Class of 2016 continued a Middletown tradition: It surrendered its control of a gold key, meant to symbolize the clubs and sports and activities and opportunities that MAHS has to offer – or, as senior class vice president Nicole Whittle described it, “the utmost in success and achievement – to the Class of 2017. Junior class president James Fitzpatrick accepted it and thanked the senior class.

The night ended with the singing of the Middletown Area High School alma mater.

It was encouraging and inspiring to see what the students have achieved, and observe their desire to achieve it. Parents, teachers, administrators, family – everyone should be proud, and encouraged. Congratulations to all, and to MAHS’ new graduates.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 May 2016 15:43

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Capturing time in a capsule

Just think: Fifty years or so from now – say, around the year 2070 – Middletown will open the time capsule that will be buried in the cornerstone of the high school that’s now under construction. Imagine how things will have changed, and their impression of our “simpler’’ time.

All the gadgets and apps and flat screen TVs that seem to dominate our modern life will seem archaic, like tin cans tied together with string. Pop culture will seem dowdy and quaint. Lady Gaga quaint? Yes, probably – or very, very, very retro. It’s always interesting to open a time capsule and see what previous generations wanted to say to us future inhabitants of their community. In 2014, the opening of a 50-year-old time capsule – a steel box sealed with 40 screws – that buried in Highspire’s Memorial Park during the town’s sesquicentennial in 1964 drew a crowd.

Among the items inside was a 45 rpm record – if you don’t know what that is, ask your grandmother or grandfather – of the Beatles’ 1964 hit, “I Should Have Known Better,’’ a song from the group’s movie, “A Hard Day’s Night.’’ Apparently Highspire residents knew a pop icon when they heard it, even before that icon became iconic.

Now 65 students at Middletown Area High School have been enlisted to decide what should go into a time capsule that will be placed in the new high school that’s under construction in neighboring Lower Swatara Twp. It is scheduled to open next school year, and the current school, which opened in 1963, will be demolished this summer. As reporter Dan Miller tells us in his story about the effort, which can be found on A1 of this edition, the job of determining what goes inside the capsule started in September, and is still going.

Some of the items that will go inside are obvious choices – a copy of the Alma Mater and Fight Song, photos of the 2016 staff at MAHS, a list of current teachers. Some are quite inspired – a piece of the stage curtain from the high school auditorium and a lock from a student locker. Will they even have stage curtains and locker locks in 2070?

What might delight future Middletown’s most when they someday open this time capsule is the iPad hard drive that will go inside. It likely will seem like a crude tool by then.

The most interesting thing about the time capsule is that teachers at MAHS have turned it into a history and social studies lesson. It’s an educational exercise, augmented by research on the Smithsonian Institute’s Web site to learn about the process involved in preserving one’s history for future generations. Students also are putting together oral histories – as told by MAHS alumni – and a video.

When a future generation finally opens this time capsule, it should get a good glimpse of life ages ago, and what was important to students back in the day. School spirit and a healthy regard for history – and change – will be some of the things they find. We applaud teachers and administrators at the high school for seizing the opportunity to turn it into a lesson.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 May 2016 16:06

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An afternoon without police and our quality of life

On Saturday, April 30, the unthinkable happened in Middletown: The borough went eight hours, from 3 to 11 p.m., without a police officer on duty.

A number of circumstances led to the vacant shift, Police Chief John Bey said – days off, vacations, administrative leave and one officer’s injury to his shooting hand contributed to the lack of coverage. The borough’s neighbors and Pennsylvania State Police offered to help in the emergency situation, so Middletown was not completely unprotected. Still, it has led to a discussion about how many full-time officers the borough needs.

Currently, the Middletown Police Department has 10 full-time officers and five part-time officers. What’s the standard? Well, the U.S. Justice Department recommends 2.3 officers per 1,000 residents. Middletown has a population of 8,900, so the borough is “nowhere near’’ that standard, said Mayor James H. Curry III.

Next door, Lower Swatara Twp. has 14 full-time officers on its roster and an additional hire in its 2016 budget. It’s interesting to note that Lower Swatara had fewer calls for service than Middletown – 4,250 compared to Middletown’s 5,973 from Nov. 1, 2013 through Oct. 31, 2014, according to Dauphin County 911 dispatch records. Currently, Middletown police routinely are working double shifts to provide police coverage.

Police protection is a tremendous quality-of-life issue, and will become more critical as Middletown and the neighborhoods just outside the borough limits grows. Privately-owned student housing has popped up in and just beyond the borough limits as neighboring Penn State Harrisburg has grown, and that growth and the renovations to Middletown’s downtown business district promise to draw more people into town.

Balance that with the fact that one full-time police officer would cost about $137,000 in salary, benefits and pension costs. Is there enough in the borough budget to pay for more police? Should the borough raise taxes or electric rates? Bey, a retired state trooper, is of the opinion that part-time officers aren’t the answer, for a number of reasons – typically they work part-time in other municipalities, so they are “difficult to depend on,’’ he said.

Several Middletown Borough Council members seem to agree. The question, though, is how many officers are taxpayers willing to pay for? Curry and council are left to struggle with that question.

What do you think? Tell your elected officials your opinion. It ultimately is up to you, and it’s too important an issue to remain silent.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 May 2016 16:59

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At MAHS, students again break a record for giving

Middletown Area High School broke yet another school record last week when students raised $31,575.28 for the Four Diamonds Fund during their annual Mini-THON, an accomplishment that should make everyone involved – and, indeed, the entire community – proud.

The total raised during the event, which featured dancing and games, held on Friday, April 29 at the school, exceeded the previous record of $21,295.49 substantially. The Mini-THON is modeled after Penn State’s successful THON, a dance marathon that raises millions each winter for Four Diamonds, a charity that helps the families of kids battling cancer at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.

Lower Dauphin High School, where the Mini-THON has a longer history, raised a record amount in March – more than $101,000.

The enthusiasm that students in both communities have for helping others never seems to wane – indeed, it gets stronger. The results are proof.

Congratulations to students in both Middletown Area and Lower Dauphin for their unwavering desire to help those in need. Their accomplishments are amazing, and their spirit is inspiring.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 May 2016 15:09

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