Wearing a button-down shirt and tie and a chain of fake diamonds, eighth-grade Assistant Principal Mike McDowell walked onstage as the first lines from “I’m Bad” by LL Cool J blasted through the speakers.
MacArthur Middle School students stood on their chairs, clapped their hands and screamed their approval as they watched McDowell lip sync to the rap song.
The show-stopper was one of 17 acts performed at the first-ever MacArthur Middle School Lip Sync Battle on Feb. 16.
Teachers, students and three Navy officers chose songs, choreographed moves and performed during the two-hour event.
Local businesses donated gift cards that were used as raffle prizes. Eighth-grader Katelyn White won a 39-inch TV in the raffle.
Caroline Edwards, an eighth-grade math teacher, organized the battle.
“Our kids needed something to see each other,” Edwards said. “We don’t have many events that our kids get to be a part of.
“I wanted to do something that would allow our kids to express themselves and prove to everyone else that they can show respect.
“We’ve been pushing respect a lot the last couple months — respecting each other, respecting your peers and acting appropriately in school.”
Serving The Schools
Edwards wanted service members to join in on the fun. She contacted Navy Lt. j.g. Joel Ward of Navy Information Operations Command Maryland and asked if he would perform as well as host the event.
“When [the Navy officers] got up there, the kids went crazy,” Edwards said. “It was nice to have them not only open the show, but host the show. I think they set the precedent for how the kids responded to their peers.
“When they were waving their arms, the kids started waving their arms. If they were clapping, the kids started clapping.
“We didn’t have negative backlash for anybody. It was well-received all around.”
Ward was joined by two other NIOC officers: Lt. j.g. Audrey Muse and Lt. j.g. Adrian Delaney. Each wore a different Navy uniform.
NIOC is MacArthur Middle School’s Partner in Education, a program that connects service members and DoD civilians with Anne Arundel County Public Schools and gives them opportunities to mentor, tutor and coach students and show support at school events.
The officers opened the battle to Bruno Mars’ latest hit “24K Magic.”
“We knew we had to come in with a lot of energy — and that’s an energetic song,” Delany said. “We knew we were going to [set the bar].”
This was the first event Muse, Delaney and Ward participated in at MacArthur.
“It’s a breath of fresh air, actually,” Muse said. “It’s kind of fun to get out there and do something different and get the kids hyped and just do something for the kids.”
The three officers spent the afternoon pumping the students up between performances and high-fiving participants.
Connecting with the community is “especially [important] with so many kids being right around the Fort Meade area where there’s a heavy concentration of military,” Muse said.
“It gives them the opportunity to see that we can kind of come outside of our shell, too, and have fun with them [while] in uniform.”
After the show, each performer was given a certificate of participation.
Certificates and gift cards were presented to Muse, Delaney and Ward to thank them for attending the event.
Eleven-year-old Gabrielle Dorsey came in third place for her performance of “Lost Boy” by Ruth G.
Sixth-grader Caden Bordo took second after pumping up his fellow classmates with “Heathens” by Twenty One Pilots.
But it was the performance by seventh-graders Masaey Nanga, Jolisa Robinson, Genevieve Martin-Archuleta and Olivia Oliver of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” that won first place.
The four girls spent a month planning and practicing dance moves for the battle.
“At first, it was just a joke in our group chat,” Genevieve said. “Then we started picking songs.”
The girls practiced on the weekends and even over Facetime when Olivia was on vacation.
“We were stressed,” Masaey said. “We thought we should just drop out [because] we weren’t going to get it done in time.”
Dressed in black and white, the girls executed their dance moves as Michael Jackson’s voice filled the room.
As the participation awards were presented, Genevieve worried that her group wasn’t going to place.
“What made me really nervous was when we got the participation award,” she said. “Then they announced third place and I thought we were done.”
As they were announced the winners of the Lip Sync Battle, the girls screamed and jumped up and down on stage.
Edwards hopes that the success of this event will have a long-term impact on the students.
“I hope they take away that we respect each other at MacArthur,” Edwards said. “We show respect for one another and that we can come together to have events like this. I think they proved today that we can do this.
“We clearly brought the community together today and had a fabulous event.”