People to Watch 2021

By By Guy Fletcher and Nancy Luse | Photography by Turner Photography Studio | Posted on 05.01.21 – Feature, People & Places

After a hiatus in 2020, the popular “People to Watch” feature is making a return to Frederick Magazine for 2021. Our honored group this year includes a nonprofit founder, an educator, a businessperson and a mother-and-daughter team of entrepreneurs. Take a look at the people we believe are worth watching this year and beyond.

 

Danica Warden

Danica Warden says that when she was a youngster growing up in Frederick, she could have benefitted from Each 1 Teach 1, a nonprofit she recently created to give youngsters a boost in life through the practice of yoga. “We teach youth that the sky is the limit, and we are here to nurture their abilities to be great.” The importance of community and communication are every bit a part of Each 1 Teach 1 as are the proper ways to execute a downward dog or cobra pose. 

FM: How do youngsters react to yoga and how do you explain the benefits?

Danica: Youngsters are initially curious and excited about learning. They love chanting “ooommm” before and after class. I explain to them that the postures and breathing techniques can bring them back into the present when they are feeling upset, unsure, or just need to re-focus. 

The benefits to children are endless. They learn concentration, focus, physical and emotional flexibility, as well as self-esteem. They learn to trust their intuition. Every one that has participated has brought a sibling or parent to at least one class. Our current classes consist of many siblings. I even have parents texting me about different yoga and mindfulness techniques they could try themselves.

FM: How does yoga and meditation affect you?

Danica: Yoga and meditation have transformed every aspect of my life. I began the breathing practice [Pranayama] first, then moved to the physical postures [Asana] a few months later. That was in 2008, and not a day has passed since then that I have not practiced a pose or a breathing technique. Without this practice I am scattered and anxious. Yoga is my lighthouse and compass.

FM: How does Each 1 Teach 1 help with stress particularly that brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Danica: Each 1 teach 1 is a direct response to COVID-19. When the program first began last October, the children were still attending school remotely. This gave them the opportunity to reconnect with classmates and discuss any issues or concerns they had in a safe, encouraging environment.

FM: What would you like to see in the future?

Danica: My goal is to have a S.T.E.A.M. program [an approach to learning that uses science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics as learning access points] in the next 6 to 12 months.

We focus heavily on emotional intelligence. This allows the children to understand and manage their emotions to self-motivate and create positive social interactions; this is the first step in realizing their potential. 

I would love to have relationships with organizations that can refer youth to the program. I would also love for the students to become teachers so they can pass along what they’ve learned. My vision is for every child in Frederick County to have had the experience of yoga meditation mindfulness in social emotional learning. 

FM: Do you have a success story to share? 

Danica: I am not sure about a particular story, but I do receive regular feedback from the families that the children are excited to come to class and are always teaching their siblings and parents—when they’re willing—what they’ve learned. And there’s the fact that all of the children now attending began last year and are still excited about showing up and bringing others along.

 

Chris Sparks

Chris Sparks learned to love the stage at Urbana High School before learning to love board games while a student at Carnegie Mellon University. Returning home after graduating, and while serving as a Catholic youth minister, he played his first live-action escape game. He was hooked. In 2016, Chris founded Surelocked In Escape Games on Market Street, holding the dual titles of owner and “game overlord,” and has been puzzling groups of friends, families, adults and children ever since.

FM: What is it like being the owner of Surelocked In Escape Games?

Chris: Owning Frederick’s first escape room is like being a magician: You take ordinary props, puzzles and locks, and you turn them all into something extraordinary. Our mission is to entertain players of all ages with unforgettable fun and unique games. Every day, I get to imagine new ways to dazzle and delight people. Some days, that means donning a costume and leading a group through our dinosaur-infested jungle. Other days, it’s working with businesses to create spectacular, tailored events. This is my dream job.

FM: Has it been challenging, especially during the pandemic?

Chris: With COVID-19, every day is another puzzle to solve. When the puzzle was, “How do we survive the state shutdown of entertainment venues?” our answer was virtual trivia nights, customized escape rooms delivered to clients and personalized scavenger hunts. When the puzzle became, “How do you play in-person during a pandemic?” our answer was robust cleaning measures and re-imagining our customer experiences to guarantee good, clean fun, literally. Now, the puzzle is, “How do we adapt to this changing world?” and our answer is continue to give people a chance to escape from the stress of daily life with the people they love.

FM: What is the reward?

Chris: The reward for escaping? We let you go free! Just kidding—the doors to our rooms are always unlocked as part of our commitment to player safety! Jokes aside, the rewards of still being open after 2020 are the people. From the bonds with my team—we were able to keep all of our game masters, they are rock stars—to the familiar faces returning to play our games, it’s like a family reunion every day! There is nothing like the feeling of watching friends have a blast in the rooms that you have built. It’s pure magic!

FM: On a scale of 1 to 10, how nerdy are you?

Chris: A solid 8. I can’t speak fluent Elvish (yet), but I can run the best D&D game you have ever played!

FM: What is the best tip you can give for breaking out of one of your escape rooms?

Chris: The keys to success in a Surelocked In Escape adventure are constant communication and a clever imagination. You can always tell when a group is going to win by the way they talk to each other—the ones that are sharing even seemingly trivial details are the ones that crack the codes. A clever imagination is a must. The rooms are designed to delight and surprise you, and imagining the possibilities is the secret to unlocking the locks!

FM: What is the best thing about being a business owner in Frederick?

Chris: Without a doubt: the Frederick community. Everyone you ever meet here—from fellow business owners and employees to customers and clients—are all kind, supportive and actively working to make Frederick special. So many of my favorite memories started with a fellow Fredericktonian reaching out and saying, “Wouldn’t it be fun if we tried this? Could you do that?” and my answer is always, “Absolutely!” This town is second to none.

 

Eric Rhodes

One of Eric Rhodes’ earliest jobs in education was teaching first grade at what is now Lincoln Elementary School—once Frederick County’s all-Black high school during the Jim Crow era. Rhodes would make other stops in the county school system, but eventually requested to come back to Lincoln because he missed the school. After serving as assistant principal for two years, he has been principal—and the school’s number-one cheerleader—for the past two years.

FM: What is it like being the principal of Lincoln Elementary School?

Eric: As cliché as it may sound, it is truly a dream! To serve in a school community with such rich history that was built on perseverance, is something that I am reminded of every single day in my role and never take it for granted. Being surrounded by a staff that is so passionate and talented, along with the students and families appreciating and respecting this school, is a recipe for growing success. Seeing the dedicated efforts of our Lincoln family continues to bring small wins daily for our students. It’s that ongoing observation of these successes and challenges that fuel a person to work hard and never stop.

FM: Is it challenging, especially during the pandemic?

Eric: This school year has probably been the most challenging in all of education. Challenging for educators, but even more challenging for families and especially students. In the “pearls of this pandemic,” a different level of appreciation for education has come out of these times. Students that return back for in-person learning have been grateful. Teachers are connected to families more than ever about their child’s education. Challenges are what change you.

FM: What’s the best thing about being principal?

Eric: We have a mission at our school: “Win small. Win often. All day. Every day.” You can see it in our halls. You can hear kids talk about it. You’ll even see it on our bracelets that we wear every day. In life, you have to find things to celebrate. You have to feel accomplished, daily. It is the renewable energy to motivate you and keep you coming back for more. With Lincoln coming up on its 100th anniversary in 2023, being surrounded by a community that has such pride in their school propels a person to do whatever it takes to keep and extend that pride. Knowing that your work can impact the trajectory of a child’s academic and economic future can be pretty overwhelming, but gratifying.

FM: How supportive is the Frederick community with your efforts at the school?

Eric: One of the many incredible things about Lincoln is its partnerships. The community has been a powerful presence in our school. In the last couple years, we created a “Panther Opportunity Partnership” so that we could bring our partners together to focus our efforts and direct them toward a common goal: student achievement. This has created a collaboration that has benefitted our students socially, emotionally and academically.

FM: What are your goals?

Eric: An ongoing goal as principal is to continue supporting our teachers to provide them the training, professional learning and resources they need to get the most out of their students, while also creating a culture that wakes them up every morning craving to make change. We continue to work hard to lower barriers, but never lower the bar. But the biggest goal of my career is to demonstrate that no matter the color of your skin, no matter what country you’re from, no matter where you live, no matter what language you speak, and no matter how much money your family makes, you can achieve if you believe.

 

Miranda and Christy Mossburg

Miranda Mossburg and her mother, Christy, initially began their online marketplace Frederick Makers “to provide something safe for artists that could replace physical markets” during COVID-19, says Miranda. As the world slowly returns to normal, she says they want to continue “to offer a platform and community that makes it possible—and easy—for artists to run a shop and pursue their work as an artist. We also want to encourage the community to shop small and show people that it doesn’t have to be a hassle or a luxury to support small, local businesses.” Christy adds: “We want to help local artists get their product in front of more people and provide a safe and easy way to shop.” 

FM: What do you look for when selecting vendors for your site?

Miranda: Right now, we accept almost everyone that comes in. One of the reasons we built Frederick Makers in the first place is to help artists during the pandemic; we didn’t want to turn people away. We take note of who is new to selling online or running a business, so we can provide additional resources if they need them.

Christy: We have guidelines that we established and spell out [no profanity, nothing offensive, etc.]. We make sure that those on our site are business owners that we are proud to represent and to have them represent us.

FM: What are some of the most unusual products sold on Frederick Makers?

Christy: My favorites are candles by Chapelle Candle Company—the bust of David in candle form. Truly art and function in one. 

Miranda: I think we have some incredibly unique artists and pieces. We have fabric collages and beautiful paintings from different artists. I also love that we have functional things like dish towels and bags, hand-crafted food items like teas, jams and barbecue sauces, and unique things like the David bust candle, and vintage, one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces and everyday accessories.

FM: Have you become friends with your vendors?

Miranda: We’ve built great relationships with our artists. I think that’s my favorite thing about running this business. We’re the business owners, but we’re also shop owners and artists like they are, so it’s easy to connect. I love seeing our artists connecting with one another, too. We just had two of our shops collaborate on something special and it was cool to see that come together. 

Christy: We are definitely building great relationships with them.

FM: What has the feedback been both from sellers and buyers?

Christy: We have received wonderful feedback from all sides. Sellers are thankful for a platform to share their products and our social media marketing expertise. Buyers love supporting local and love finding artists that they had no idea existed.

Miranda: I’ve been blown away by the support from the community, both from artists and customers. We have some customers that have placed orders during every one of our pop-up markets, so it’s really cool to see that we’ve built some good connections.

FM: Are you two crafty or artistic?

Miranda: Definitely artistic. I never felt “artistic” growing up because I didn’t focus on traditional art mediums, but it still feels more artistic to me. I feel more thrifty than I do crafty; I always try to make something functional that I need instead of buying it. 

Christy: Artistic, yes. I’ve been drawing and painting since I was a kid. I’ve led tons of kids’ art classes through my church, where I’m also employed. I lead Artist’s Way groups, I’ve led women’s retreats focused on creativity and I’m also a writer and a senior editor for a publishing company where I work full time.