Summer program teaches Baltimore city youngsters earn money while they learn

August 17, 1992|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

In yesterday's Anne Arundel County Sun, the picture of Brig. Gen. Gerald B. Fisk and Babe Ruth should not have been used to illustrate the story, "Work program teaches youngsters valuable lessons."

A summer jobs program that linked inner city teen-agers with drill sergeants, military formations and paint-up, fix-up chores at Fort Meade ended two weeks early Friday for 170 Baltimore youngsters, a victim of its own success.

Baltimore's share of the $7.5 million federal grant that financed the program ran out because of the large number of youngsters who signed up for it. The teen-agers in the program and Army leaders who say it has been a Godsend during tough economic times shared their disappointment on their last day at work.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

"We want to work some more," complained Twan Pollard, a 16-year-old from East Baltimore who was angered that the grant money ran out. "They messed up."

He and other city youths will come up short money they were expecting to spend on clothes and supplies needed for the start of school in September. And post officials will come up short of some of the maintenance work they had hoped to complete.

"The return has been immeasurable," added Lt. Col. Robert F. Lammel. "There is no way that we have enough manpower to take care of the base the way we would like to."

More than 260 teens from Baltimore and Prince Georges County began working at 26 different sites at Fort Meade July 13 as part of a state program to give 3,500 Maryland youngsters jobs. They worked Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the minimum wage of $4.25 an hour at jobs ranging from painting an airplane hangar to setting up computer spread sheets.

Meanwhile, Army leaders lost no time in their recruiting efforts, delivering lectures on the military services as a career, leading tours of the base and stressing that you can't become an officer without first going to college.

But the program also was a learning experience for those wearing the military uniforms. "All you have to do is give these kids a chance and some guidance and they can do anything you want them to," said Sgt. Major David E. Laycock.

Not all the youths interviewed were keen on the Army, saying the rigid time schedules and orders are too much to get used to. But all agreed that working, even moving rocks and raking and painting beat hanging out on city streets.

"I was looking for a job so I could stay out of trouble," said Marquis Hampton, a 16-year-old Park Heights resident. "I didn't want to worry my mother."

If it weren't for the job program, "I would be in trouble," Marquis conceded. The job keeps him off the streets at night, he explained. "I'm too tired."

For others, the program offered up a taste of capitalism. Duc Danz, a 16-year-old native of Vietnam recently migrated to the United States with hs mother. This was his first job.

"It's not too hard," he said while grabbing a rake on Mapes Road, near Md. Route 32.

Most of the youths interviewed said they didn't mind the work at all. A few said they even liked the Army.

"I like the uniform and the order," said 15-year-old Lamont Wise, who lives in West Baltimore.

"I might as well join right now," said James Johnson, 17, who also lives in West Baltimore, adding that he wants to be a combat sergeant. "It's tough, but you learn. If I wasn't here, I would be doing nothing but sitting around the house."

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