For At-risk Youths, There's A Second Chance

Minister's Program Aims To 'Reach Out'

February 09, 1992|By Angela Gambill | Angela Gambill,Staff writer

Most people driving down West Washington Street in Annapolis see a large brick church and some housing projects.

Hulan Marshall sees people who hurt, whether they admit it or not.

He sees drug dealers on street corners, abusive parents, youngsters who learn to shriek foul language long before they learn to read -- and he wants to help them all.

Two years ago, the 32-year-old associate minister with First Baptist Church started Second Chance Ministry, which provides tutoring, counseling and computer classes to more than 100 youngsters.

"You look down this corner," he says, gesturing down West Washington to where teen-agers hang out on the sidewalk, just one block off busy West Street. "People look at that community and say they're lost. They're not lost. Too many people have fear of going out into the communities. But people need to hear somebody cares about them."

Marshall, who grew up on Clay Street and still lives there, hits the streets every week telling people God loves them and wants to help.

"You have to reach out to people. It's the onlyway we're going to make a difference," insists Marshall, who gave uphis day job in August to work full time with Second Chance.

Mornings, Marshall heads into one of the low-income housing areas of the city, knocking on doors "so they can see who I am," introducing himself to parents and making friends with teen-agers.

Afternoons, he helps with the ministry's programs, or stands on the street corner talking to children walking home from Bates Middle School, inviting them to the homework sessions at the church.

"Most people think church is a place where the minister is going to pull out a whip. It's not that," he says.

This past week, Marshall went to court to speak on behalf of a teen-ager he's counseled after the boy got in legal trouble. "The judge asked me, 'What are you gonna do for him?' " Marshall relates.

"I tell them, 'God forgives. He loves you. We care about you. Don't feel like you're a bad person. You and God can make a difference. You are not condemned to be what you are now.' "

Second Chance, Marshall says, offers a spiritual alternative that he sees as abig advantage over non-religious organizations. "It's a Christian-based organization," he says. "You go into some recreation centers around here and you'll hear boys calling girls vile names, teen-agers treating each other with disrespect.

"We emphasize respect between the boys and the girls. We don't accept certain language or attitudes. We're trying to build their self-esteem, and I'll say, 'You're not supposed to talk to each other like that.' If we act like everything these kids do is OK, when it's not, we've lost them."

In addition tothe tutoring and computer classes, Second Chance holds weekly Bible studies and on Fridays, Christian movies at the church. "We watch thefilms and then discuss peer pressure or values," says Marshall.

Second Chance takes the youngsters on monthly outings, like ball games, and on quarterly retreats. The next retreat, for 30 children from Annapolis communities, is scheduled for April at River Valley Ranch, aWestern-style Christian camp in Pennsylvania.

But the core of thenon-profit organization is the relationships forged between youngsters who need help and adults who care about them, says Marshall.

"You get to know them, where they are, what they're doing, their family, education," he says. Teen-agers come to him for advice about sexuality, and Marshall tells them to wait to have sex, that they have plenty of time. He helps those getting in trouble with friends to find new friends.

"I told one drug dealer, 'I know you're not happy. You're afraid to sleep at night with the lights off. But God loves you and can change your life.' "

It isn't glamorous work, especially when people reject help.

"The tough part has been how some don't wantyou there," he says. One mother refused to let her son come to after-school tutoring, and "the kid was sitting there crying he wanted to come so bad, and she still said no. Another teen-aged mother was instructing her child to say vulgar stuff. He was about 4 years old. He'drepeat the stuff and she would laugh. I thought, 'When he's 8, he'llbe kicking her in the behind if he doesn't get help.' "

But ever since giving up his day job two years ago to start Second Chance fromscratch, Marshall has been living by faith, and it is his faith he turns to when the problems seem to big for anybody to fix.

"I've sat home praying, crying, feeling no one else cares. I've been close togiving up, but I know God wants us to continue on," he says.

And the help has come. So far, Second Chance has 10 volunteers, five of them Naval Academy midshipmen and others from several churches in Arnold. Schoolteachers have offered to tutor children in math.

Says Annapolis City Administrator Michael Mallinoff: "Marshall's group is out there doing things in a low-key way, but they're very effective."

Financially, the ministry still needs help. Second Chance received a city grant of $2,500 last year and a county grant of $2,600. A local businessman called recently offering $100 a month. But with an anticipated yearly budget of $60,000, Marshall is still living on a lot of faith.

"We're doing good. I would hate to see us close," he says, reporting 14 of 16 children who took the computer class recently graduated with grades above 80. Youngsters in the tutoring program havebrought their grades from failing to passing and better.

This past Thursday, Marshall could barely sit still, excited because his morning visit about town had located 12 children in eight houses whose parents said they could come to Second Chance activities.

"We have made a difference," he says. "We can't save the whole city of Annapolis, but give me 10 kids we can help, who can talk to their peers, and it could be a forest fire."

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