Kenitra Lee wants to go to college, perhaps to be a lawyer. And yesterday, after pledging to stay in school and to keep her grades up, she was assured that she won't have to worry about the money.
Kenitra, an eighth-grader at Booker T. Washington Middle School, was one of some 800 Baltimore schoolchildren who took the same pledge yesterday at the Baltimore Convention Center and in return received a guarantee of financial support for college.
The guarantee, called RAISE II, is an extension of Project RAISE, which began in 1988 as a mentoring program to encourage inner-city youngsters to graduate from high school. The original RAISE program began in the fifth grade.
Last September, though, it was decided to begin the program in the second grade and then to add the financial guarantee, said Kalman C. "Buzzy" Hettleman, executive director of the Baltimore Mentoring Institute. That financial promise was announced yesterday.
A. C. Hubbard, president of the board of trustees, said students who complete high school will be assisted in finding scholarships and grants for college or career school, and that RAISE II guarantees the "last dollars" to complete the financial package for tuition, books, fees, room and board and transportation. Program officials estimate it could cost $4.5 million for the students now in the program.
The Abell Foundation has backed the guarantee.
RAISE students are chosen from schools with the lowest test scores and the highest number of requests for free lunches, because those children most need a strong helping hand, he said.
The students work with volunteer mentors, who help them not only with school, but with learning about the community around them.
Kenitra became a RAISE student in the fifth grade.
Vickie McAndrews, of Roland Park, has been her mentor for the last year.
Jacquetta Scott, Kenitra's mother, said she sees her daughter improving. "She's more positive about herself, and her grades are better." Kenitra will enter Edmondson Senior High School in September.
Mrs. McAndrews, a Harvard alumna who has worked as a corporate development consultant, said she and Kenitra talk, either in person or by telephone, at least weekly. "I'm learning a lot," the mentor said. "It brings back memories of what it's like to be 13. I had some older women who helped me then, and I'm trying to do the same thing now."
Ralph E. Moore Jr., director of RAISE II, called the guarantee certificates "a lifeline" for the youngsters.