By Maya Pottiger
For the last 11 years, Jennie Merrill has been a staple of Severna Park Elementary School’s variety show.
This year, the PTA volunteers running the show are entirely new.
“Jennie is my rock through this process of producing a large show with 150 kids for the first time,” said Shannon Pearson, executive producer of the show this year. “Just knowing that she was on board again this year and excited to work with new producers meant the world to me.”
Merrill — along with her “merry band of past students” — essentially serves as the entire tech crew for the variety show. She arranges the acts to help the flow of the show and has notes for each one: which stage lights need to be on, how many microphones, when and how far the curtain opens.
“You have to know the inside job of it,” Merrill said. “It’s all about organizing it and making sure it flows nicely.”
Merrill has been with the variety show for 11 of its 13 years.
“Producing the show is a very daunting and time-consuming process, and knowing that she has everything under control backstage takes a load of stress off of my shoulders,” Pearson said. “She is dedicated to this show and loves being a part of it. You can see that.”
Merrill keeps coming back to the variety show because it provides students an outlet to be themselves.
“There’s this opportunity where they can show there’s another part of them that nobody knows about,” Merrill said. “I want people to see it and be a part of it and enjoy it as much as I do.”
However, Merrill is involved in much more than the variety show. At SPES, Merrill helps organize a variety of events, including Read Across America, the annual science fair, Math Night and STEM Night. Merrill is also responsible for coordinating with Severna Park High School student interns. She also gets to school early for SeaPerch, which allows fifth-graders to build robots.
“I don’t want to let things die,” Merrill said. “I want [students] to get the whole experience.”
Outside of school, Merrill is active with the Annapolis Striders and her son’s travel baseball team. Over the years, Merrill and her mom have volunteered with a variety of the Striders’ races, including the B&A Marathon, Annapolis 10-Miler and Cold Turkey 10K. With her son’s baseball team, Merrill serves as the scorekeeper.
“I don’t volunteer or do things because I need [the recognition],” Merrill said. “I do it because I really want to help. If I see something that needs to be done, usually I jump in.”
Merrill attributes this to her mom, who modeled this to Merrill as a child. Now, Merrill’s mom calls her a “hidden force.” Recently, the two teamed up for a volunteer effort: fixing the burst pipes under her grandfather’s house.
“My mom and I were down there the whole month of February,” Merrill said. “We started a GoFundMe, raised some money for him so he could replace his pipes and his hot water heater.”
Merrill said volunteering is showing your heart to somebody else and giving them a part of you, letting you be a light in their life.
“Everybody needs to give something back in the world,” Merrill said. “You don’t hear about the good things as much, but if you can be a part of the good things, it’s a better situation for everybody.”
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