President Bush honors mids as 437th Daily Point of Light They tutored Montgomery Co. honor students.

April 24, 1991|By Monica Norton | Monica Norton,Evening Sun Staff

Naval Academy Midshipman Paul H. Hogue said he never had any positive role models when he was growing up.

Hogue, a freshman at the academy, says he is determined to make sure another generation of black children doesn't grow up without positive role models.

So Hogue and about 100 of his classmates and professors have joined in a partnership to provide tutors and mentors to students from Montgomery County schools.

"I think they benefit not just from the tutoring but [by] being with us," Hogue said yesterday. "In fact, I think the learning is often secondary and providing them with people they can look up to is primary."

Yesterday, President Bush, Hogue's commander-in-chief, came to the academy to honor the participants -- midshipmen, professors, parents and students -- of the Benjamin Banneker Honors Mathematics and Science Society Partnership by designating the program as the 437th Daily Point of Light.

"I'm proud to recognize this program during the Points of Light National Celebration here on National Youth Service Day, a day when we shine the spotlight of national attention and praise on young people who make a difference in their communities through direct and consequential acts of service," Bush said.

"These midshipmen in this program and in all of the Navy's, the academy's community efforts, are learning the true satisfaction that comes from serving others."

Under a sun-filled sky on a picture-perfect day, more than 4,200 midshipmen sat in the quadrangle outside Bancroft Hall and cheered on their "boss," as well as Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The two men jokingly chided each other about throwing out the first balls earlier this month at the opening games of the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees baseball teams.

Powell said he had tried to throw the ball into the dirt, as the president had done a week earlier in Texas. But, Powell said, he threw a strike.

Bush responded by saying he had "a bad day on Opening Day of the Rangers, and that's the story I'm sticking to.

"Sgt. Powell will be reporting to Nome, Alaska," he added as the crowd laughed.

The president was jovial, saying he had been late arriving at the academy because he was having lunch with Gen. Norman H. Schwarzkopf.

"The man hadn't had a good meal in a long time," Bush said. "You should have seen him eat."

On the serious topic at hand, both the president and Powell commended the three-year partnership and it's founder, Joseph D. Speller.

"We need millions more like you J.D., people concerned about the condition of their communities, and moved not just to complain about it, but to do something about it," Bush said.

Speller created the academic honors society for black students at Benjamin Banneker Middle School in Burtonsville after his son, Christopher, began to be approached by students seeking to persuade him to use drugs. The way to save his son, and others like him, Speller said, was to create a program that would emphasize achievement.

Currently, 150 elementary, middle-, junior- and senior-high students in 40 schools throughout Montgomery participate in the program.

Two Saturdays a month the students travel to the Naval Academy, where they spend nearly four hours studying, performing science demonstrations and receiving help from the midshipmen.

The students also are treated to lunch at the academy's King Hall.

When a teacher approached Errol Jennings, 14, about entering the partnership, he said he was less than thrilled. The idea of getting up early on Saturday mornings and traveling to Annapolis to study mathematics and science was not exactly appealing at first, he said.

But Errol has changed his mind.

"The best part of coming here is getting help from the midshipmen," said Errol, an eighth-grade student at Redland Middle School. "They're really great. They help you out. I just like the fact that they give up their time to help others."

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