The sock-covered feet of 14 budding karate black belts slide across the tiled floor of the Robinwood Community Center.
"Quiet," yells an instructor, sounding closer to a Marine drill sergeant than the 15-year-old Annapolis High student that he is.
Twice a week for the past year -- an hour on Tuesday and Thursdayevenings -- this is how class has begun for the karate students, ranging in age from 6 to 16.
Nearly all of the eight boys and six girls live in the Robinwood public housing development. By the nature oftheir environment, it would be easy to label them at-risk to drop out of school, not to mention drop out of any program that meets after school.
But the karate students have shown their dedication and commitment by attending the grueling classes twice a week while maintaining good grades in school.
They call themselves the COBRAS. Each class begins and ends with students reciting the mantra of the COBRAS, which stands for Cooperation, Obedience, Bravery, Respect, Accomplishment and Success.
Orlie Reid Jr., 15, and Pernell Jackson, an 11-year-old at Central Middle School, lead the class. The two volunteertheir time in order to give something back to the community.
"It was my dad's idea in the beginning," Orlie said. "He asked me how I would feel about helping out some kids who didn't have the same opportunity I had to take karate. I thought it was a good idea. People shouldn't be denied the opportunity to do something just because they can't afford it."
Pernell's mother drives him from Edgewater so he teach the students.
"I really just wanted to help," Pernell said. "Iwas thinking, 'People helped me to get my black belt. Why shouldn't I help someone else to get their black belt?' "
Orlie Reid, fatherof Orlie Jr., said it is important to show both adults and children that they always have something to give to the community.
"As blacks, we have to start helping each other," Reid said. "We cannot continue to depend on someone else. We all have some skill we can teach someone. We have to go back into the communities and give of ourselves."
At the beginning of each class, students are put through a rigorous regimen of 300 jumping jacks, 50 sit-ups and 50 push-ups. Then, they get down to the real work.
Orlie leads the class through several different steps, including kicks and hand motions. The steps are repeated over and over, until students get them right. Anyone doing the steps half-heartedly, talking, or being generally disruptive, gets to hear Orlie bark, "Push-ups."
Pernell, the quieter of the two instructors, moves among the students, correcting their foot placementsand showing the correct hand movements.
Despite differences in the teaching styles of Pernell and Orlie, the students seem to like both equally, and appreciate what karate has brought to their lives.
"In the beginning, it was very complicated and I would get frustrateda lot," said Tamika Drew, a 16-year-old Annapolis High student. "Butnow I like it a lot."
Tamika said the karate classes have taught her discipline and how to show respect for others.
"I don't get asupset over little things as I used to," Tamika said. "My temper is better."
Troy Love, 15-year-old at South River High, said the karate class has given him an alternative to hanging out on the streets.
"It really does teach you discipline," Troy said. "And if you're here, then you won't be hanging out in the street, which is what a lot of guys do."