Chris McGill, 14, is not much older than the 5 1/2 - to 12-year-old kids he works with at Four Seasons Elementary School in Gambrills. But when he talks, they listen.
"Will you two cut it out?" Chris said to two young boys rough-housing while standing in line waiting to go outside and play kickball.
Both youngsters jumped to attention.
"I love working with kids," the Arundel High School student said. "I'm thinking about getting into child care as a career. I plan to work here next year, too."
Chris is one of 75 teens between the ages of 13-15 participating in Counselors In Training, a teen volunteer program initiated this year by the Department of Recreation and Parks on playgrounds around the county.
"We had volunteers in the past on our playgrounds, but not an organized system," said Kathy Kremer, a supervisor for the department and the program's coordinator. "We advertised for volunteers along with paid positions, making the volunteer positions much more formal."
Last May, about 150 interested youngsters filled out an application, submitted two letters of recommendation and went through an interview with an Anne Arundel Department of Recreation and Parks' area supervisor.
Once a pool of teen-agers completed the process successfully, they were required to attend orientation and a six-hour training course.
"Volunteers are such valuable resources in public recreation," Ms. Kremer said. "Now we have potential employees who can come work for us. They are ahead of the game, because they are guaranteed an interview for a paid position when they become 16."
The counselors in training (CIT) work as assistants to paid staffers at 32 summer playgrounds and camps throughout the county. They are required to work a minimum of three days a week for at least three weeks. Ms. Kremer said many of them come almost every day and stay during the whole six-week period, which began June 29 and ends Aug. 7.
Damien Metzger, 13, has been on the playgrounds since he was 5 years old. He nows volunteers as a CIT at High Point Elementary School in Pasadena.
"My mom works and she doesn't like me to be home by myself, so I volunteer here," he said. "I like being here."
Damien, along with the other three CITs at High Point -- Brad Eberhardt, Keith Sellers, and Kevin Duerling -- attended the playground program as children before volunteering. They now assist five paid staffers with the 80 children.
Fifteen-year-old Keith said the children give him a lot of mouth, but he gets attached to them. "It becomes a big brother-type of thing. I could work at Taco Bell or something, but I'd have to be 16 to even do that."
Brad, 15, said he had a paying job lined up for the summer, but preferred to work for free at the playground. "I could be working at a farm for $4.25 an hour, but I think this teaches me more responsibility," he said.
A typical day at the playground runs from 9 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. The volunteers help the staffers supervise children while they make arts and crafts or watch a movie. They also help umpire, captain or referee while the youngsters play ball or board games.
"We don't hear enough about these kinds of kids," said Earl Dundorf, High Point's physical education teacher and playground director. "This is a good program. It lets them play, hang with other kids and keeps them from being bored. More importantly, it gives them a sense of responsibility and helps them contribute to the community."