Youths Work Through Problems

County Jobs Program Aids The Disadvantaged

August 22, 1991|By Bonita Formwalt | Bonita Formwalt,Contributing writer

Michael Henderson's job ended two weeks ago, but he continued showing up for work anyway.

Michael, a Glen Burnie Senior High freshman,participated for the first time in the county's Summer Youth Work Program, which offers hands-on job experience for disadvantaged youth.

During the seven-week program, he worked at Freetown Elementary School under the supervision of Andre Green, a custodian at Freetown. Each weekday, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., the two washed chairs, desks,lockers and tables as they prepared the building for the new school year.

For his efforts, Michael, an alumnus of Freetown, was paid minimum wage -- $4.25 an hour.

But when the program ended the firstweek of August, there was still work to be done. So Michael continued to come by every day to help Green.

"Most of the summer they only had one worker -- me -- and Andre needed help, so I came back," explained Michael. "Plus it's fun. I like working with Andre."

The admiration is mutual.

"He's a wonderful kid. Always on time. We asked for an extension with the program, but (the county) couldn't pay him. So he just came by every day and volunteered," said Green.

Michael was one of 125 students in the county who participated in the summer work program. Students are selected by their counselors and teachers, according to need. In addition to economic need, students may beselected who have academic weaknesses or are handicapped. Students involved with the mentor program, Maryland Tomorrow, also are considered.

"Some kids start in the program at 14 and stay on until they graduate," said Jim Williams, county coordinator of the program. "We figure between 92 and 95 percent complete the summer.

"This is definitely an incentive to continue school. I'm sure some of these kids would have left school if not for this program. They get a feeling of what the real work world is like. It also makes them feel like they're making an honest buck.

"We provide job placement, counseling, mentoring and help on how to work. There are probably 1,000 kids in this county that could use this program, and we have funding for 125."

Michael will walk into school in two weeks wearing clothes that he bought with his own money.

During the school year, he will turn his attention to the Glen Burnie Gophers football team. But he expects to be back in the program next summer.

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