New Baltimore-Washington jobs program for teens sails to success Teens from each city build rowboats, sail Chesapeake for 4 days.

August 14, 1992|By Frank P. L. Somerville | Frank P. L. Somerville,Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- They did not sail into a glittering sunset.

It was blustery, chilly and wet as the four-day voyage from Baltimore's Inner Harbor by way of the Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland ended yesterday evening at a marina in Southwest Washington.

Forty teen-age apprentice sailors, half from inner-city Baltimore and half from inner-city Washington, got a glittering welcome all the same.

They were met by balloons, flags, music, refreshments, presentations of awards and gifts, cheering parents, friends and sponsors, and a parade of government officials at the microphone, led by Mayors Kurt L. Schmoke of Baltimore and Sharon Pratt Kelly of Washington.

The mayors said the event marked a historic partnership by their two cities. Each praised the summer job-training program of Baltimore's Living Classrooms Foundation, including its sailing experience for young landlubbers.

But it fell to Willie Fedd, a 17-year-old resident of an East Baltimore housing project, to provide the eloquent high point of the oratory.

"Mayor Kelly, Mayor Schmoke -- thank you for believing in us," the Southern High 11th-grader said simply. Then, speaking for his 39 fellow crew members who had just helped dock the Lady Maryland and the Mildred Belle, he told the mayors, "We hope you are proud of us."

Both mayors clearly were.

Mayor Schmoke gave him a big smile and a handshake; Mayor Kelly gave him a hug.

James Piper Bond, executive director of the Living Classrooms Foundation, which until recently was known as the Lady Maryland Foundation, presided at last night's festivities under umbrellas and canopies at the Gangplank Marina on Washington's Water Street.

"It is successes like this that people need to read about," Mr. Bond told the crowd, referring to "all the tragic news from our inner-cities."

His remark won a burst of applause from parents of the new graduates of the six-week summer program, described as "at-risk youth from diverse backgrounds."

None of the parents who watched the arrival of the foundation's 104-foot sailing vessel, the Lady Maryland, and its 60-foot Chesapeake Bay work boat, the Mildred Belle, was more excited than Margaret Jones Phifer of Washington. When she finally spied her 15-year-old son, Demetri, aboard the Mildred Belle, she exclaimed: "He's my baby. I just want to hug him."

Mrs. Phifer could not say enough in praise of the sailing experience her son was getting. Demetri called her on one of the stops during the four-day cruise of the bay, "right after a storm," ,, she said. "I was praying. But he was having a ball, despite his 90 mosquito bites."

Demetri said one of the 10 girls among the 40 teens on the two vessels got seasick, and he "almost did."

They received diplomas for successfully finishing the training that began July 6 and included building two rowboats and working on the foundation's Harford County farm. Their last four days on the bay took them to Tilghman Island, St. Mary's City in Southern Maryland and Smallwood State Park in Prince George's County.

The programs of the tax-exempt, nonprofit foundation, headquartered in an old lighthouse in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, emphasize leadership, career development, cultural enrichment and the history, economics and ecology of the bay region.

It has a staff of 25, including several who were themselves once "at-risk students," and an annual budget of about $750,000. In the foundation's seven years, about 100,000 young people from a variety of backgrounds have benefited from the programs, Mr. Bond said.

G. Dennis O'Brien of St. Michaels, the 52-year-old retired businessman who started the foundation, said its most rewarding successes have been with "troubled kids with lots of energy, lots of nerve and usually with a lot of talent, but not necessarily in traditional ways." He said the guidance is low-key and "the morality for these kids just comes from being part of the good, secure family" provided by the foundation.

Standing on the Lady Maryland, out of the rain, Mayor Schmoke said the just-concluded program "cemented good relations among young people and showed that our governments can work together."

The two mayors exchanged presents -- picture books about their respective cities -- as well as words of praise for each other.

Then, Mayor Kelly produced a second gift for Mayor Schmoke. It was a T-shirt bearing the inscription, "Got a Job."

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