Public Service as a School Lesson

April 20, 1991

Carroll County's Francis Scott Key High School and East Baltimore's Bernard Harris Elementary School are separated by more than the 40-mile distance between them. Harris, in the 1400 block of North Caroline Street, is a typical inner-city school, whereas Key is located literally in the middle of corn fields near Union Bridge. Despite these differences, the two schools are pathfinders in an effort to promote cooperative learning.

For the past year, the schools have been developing a novel "city-county" partnership. They have worked to boost one another's attendance rates. Students from the Key school have visited their East Baltimore partners, donating books. In return, Harris pupils sent a video on ways to prepare for tests to Carroll County. They are now in the process of preparing a program on black history. "In terms of impact, I don't see a limit," said Alma Brown, the principal at Harris Elementary.

This long-distance partnership was initiated by Lynne Mainzer, a former special education teacher at Key. Now a staffer with John Hopkins University's Success for All program, she wanted to improve attendance rates at Harris Elementary. She seems to have achieved that objective: During one recent month the inner-city school had more pupils with perfect attendance than its Carroll County partner.

"It's very special because it brings the county kids to the city," said Kathleen Kennedy Townsend of the Maryland Student Service Alliance. Her organization sponsors community service xTC projects at 60 other schools. Many other programs are equally thought-provoking.

These programs come to a sharper public focus on Tuesday when countless other schools observe National Youth Service Day. At Lake Clifton/Eastern High School, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke will lead students in tree planting and trash-pickup. At Hamilton Middle School, environmental awareness and recycling will be the themes. And students from Southern High School and Curtis Bay Elementary School will share a morning of activities with residents of Harbor Inn Convalescent Center.

These kinds of initiatives provide invaluable learning experiences. They widen pupils' horizons while teaching them activism and voluntarism, paying big dividends in Baltimore City and beyond.

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