Face of the Week: Fletcher Thomas

Team BCPS is made up of thousands of accomplished and interesting students, employees, and community supporters. “Face of the Week” introduces you to some of the people who make BCPS such an amazing mosaic of talent, caring, and commitment.

Face of the Week: Fletcher Thomas

Do not think for a moment that Fletcher Thomas will fret over his final days at Arbutus Middle School. It’s not his way to indulge in sentimental reverie or maudlin affection. Grass does not grow between Fletcher’s toes.

Not Fletcher, the kind of guy who writes two pages for a one-page essay assignment just because he enjoys writing. The sort who decides to read – straight-through, for fun – all his sister’s college chemistry textbooks last summer because, he explains matter-of-factly, “I was bored.”    

Yes, Fletcher Thomas is the type of student who has a style all his own. Challenged last year to create a science class project on forensics, Fletcher’s idea was characteristically, well, Fletcher. First, he de-stuffed a toy panda bear from home, then re-stuffed it with a collection of anatomically-correct organs and viscera he’d made from modeling clay. Finally, he walked his class through an autopsy of the beleaguered bear for his project, an experience that left him seriously considering a career in forensic pathology. 

So the prospect of taking on Catonsville High School in the fall both intrigues and excites Fletcher, whose self-described “creative personality” will no doubt get a work-out. “It’s sad, maybe, because I’ve enjoyed being at Arbutus Middle,” he says without a trace of sadness. “But I can start a new path at Catonsville. I know there will be lots there to keep me busy.”

Yep, that’s Fletcher, says his principal at Arbutus Middle, Michelle Feeney. “What I admire most about Fletcher is his fearlessness to try things outside his comfort zone,” she says. “I think he’s motivated to be a risk-taker because he truly has the curiosity for learning new things and a zest for getting involved with life. . . . Fletcher inspires me to continue to try and ignite the same love of learning in all my students.”

Not your typical 8th grader

Walk with Fletcher through the halls of Arbutus Middle and you’re accompanying a celebrity of sorts. Among the many who call out his name, one student lays it on a bit: “You’re my hero, Fletcher!” he says. “You have the vision!”

Fletcher smirks and waves, a bit embarrassed but unfazed by the attention. “A lot of people know me around school,” he says. “I’ve been shy in the past, but now . . . everyone in school knows me. I do get a lot of good feedback.”  

It’s not surprising, all the attention. Fletcher’s activities at AMS could fill a resume and then some: playing first cello for the school’s orchestra, singing for the Festival Choir, playing more challenging pieces with the school’s Chamber Orchestra, taking Tae Kwon Do after school for the past six years, and serving as president of the Best Buddies program, which pairs program members with students with special education needs.

“I really just like interacting with people; it’s my personality, and Best Buddies really fits that,” he says. “Working with the (Best Buddy) students is great. They’re different, but they’re the same, really. They’re so nice, and I really enjoy working with them. It makes me happy.”

But this year came a new, more public opportunity – the one Fletcher says earned him notoriety in the hallways. At the beginning of the school year, Feeney and other staff members repurposed an old storage area at the school into a broadcasting studio. The idea was to literally animate the school’s daily announcements – have students learn the complexities of producing a daily “news” broadcast including writing scripts, handle production, and appear as on-air reporters.

But when the call went out for students to appear on-air, few stepped up. “I guess they were shy of being on camera,” said Fletcher, “so I said, ‘Sure, I’ll give it a go.’”

Fletcher’s decision to become the face of AMS, Feeney says, was “fearless and without reserve” and typical of Fletcher. “He’s a creative, outside the box student, and he has been that way since his first day at AMS,” she adds. “He is involved in such a variety of activities, he truly can be described as a ‘Renaissance Young Man’.”   

And, of course, game for almost anything.

Early this year as the school’s new morning announcement programming finally went live, the crew dreamed up a segment in which Fletcher would impart wisdom, especially to younger AMS students, about what not to do to be a successful student, “the student you don’t want to follow,” Fletcher says. It was titled, “Don’t Be A Fletcher” and immediately became part of school lore. “It’s been fun,” he says.

On to Catonsville

As if entering high school won’t keep him busy enough, Fletcher has decided to join OrchKids, a year-round, during and after-school music program group sponsored by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He wants to find a job for the summer, and his interest in the medical field remains strong.

Fletcher attributes that to his parents – Chuck, the director of the University of Maryland Library Consortium, and Karen, who works as the school historian for Johns Hopkins University. “I’ve always been surrounded by the medical environment. When my mother worked for the School of Public Health, she’d tell us about the interviews with doctors and students she’d had,” he says.

As a rising high school freshman and departing middle schooler, would Fletcher have any advice for incoming middle school students? “I feel like it’s important to try new things you haven’t tried before,” he says. “That’s why I did the broadcasting; I added it to my experiences in middle school. I just try to push myself. I don’t want to sit around being restless.”

And one other thing, he says, his creativity engaged and warming to the topic. “One important thing is to find a fun group you enjoy being with,” he says. “I’m surrounded by people I really like.”

For now, he’ll focus on starting the school year strongly at Catonsville, though he says he’d like to start a Best Buddies program if the school doesn’t already have one.  He’ll continue with his music, and his love of science and pursuit of forensic pathology. If there’s a broadcasting opportunity, he’ll give it some thought, but he knows there will be plenty to keep him busy.

“There’s a lot I want to do,” he says with a sigh, “but no time to do it all.” 

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