School gets kids, neighbors together Hampstead Hill program praised BALTIMORE CITY

January 23, 1993|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,Staff Writer

Gwen Taliaferro says that the after-school tutoring and

enrichment program she directs using community volunteers has helped to relieve tensions betweeen trouble-plagued Hampstead Hill Middle School and its neighbors in Southeast Baltimore.

The Baltimore Community Foundation, which funds community organizations through its Neighborhood Grants program, recently awarded a $3,000 grant to continue the year-old effort.

Residents say the program is sorely needed and some results are already apparent.

In recent years, the community lost confidence in the school because of several well-publicized incidents, including the beating of a man in nearby Patterson Park -- one of his assailants was said to be a Hampstead Hill student -- complaints about packs of disruptive students passing through their neighborhood the way home after school, fights among students and the removal of two principals who couldn't keep students under control.

Most of Hampstead Hill's students come from outside the neighborhood.

"All the community persons needed was an opportunity to get to know and manage the children," said Ms. Taliaferro, vice principal of Hampstead Hill. "Having volunteers actually come to the building and see that children are children alleviates the tension."

About 100 of Hampstead Hill's 1,050 students, stay after school for two hours doing homework, being tutored by volunteers from the community and participating in enrichment activities.

The enrichment activities include the Newspaper Reporters Club, the Charm Club, the Booster Club and sports. They are organized by Hampstead Hill faculty and by volunteers from the Baltimore-Linwood Improvement Association and area businesses.

Catherine Felter, chairwoman of the improvement association's education committee, said the program is effective.

"We wanted to do something to help the children's self-esteem, grades, attendance and their opportunities," said Ms. Felter, who lives six blocks from Hampstead Hill.

Ms. Felter said that last school year, the after-school program -- three 10-week sessions -- cost about $15,000. This school year's initial session ended Dec. 11 and a 12-week session is set to begin the first week in February.

To help keep the program going, $5,000 was donated by other sources in addition to the foundation grant.

Ed Rutkowski, a member of the improvement association who helps finds funds for the program and who is also a tutor, said that Hampstead Hill students "are not nearly as disruptive as they used to be. There still tends to be isolated incidents, though."

"There are two kinds of kids we want to reach -- good kids we don't want to go bad and kids who are basically good but have problems," said Mr. Rutkowski, who has lived four blocks from the school for six years.

What about the lost causes?

"Some were put out of the school, some dropped out, some graduated or we helped find them other schools to attend," said Kevin Harahan, Hampstead Hill principal. "We have had a minimum of complaints from the community this year."

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