Was it a tear or just a raindrop that blurred my vision?Of...


June 13, 1993|By Michael Davis

Was it a tear or just a raindrop that blurred my vision?

Of that, I am unsure. But I do know that when I drove to work one gray Friday afternoon last winter, my mind was a misty mix of exhilaration and despair for the children of Cherry Hill.

Driving north from the smokestacks of Baltimore's industrial lower rim toward Camden Yards and the gleaming downtown core, I couldn't get my mind off Allen and Tomika, Darrell and Maria, Thomas and Cierra, Larry and Cheyenne, and the rest of their classmates at Carter G. Woodson Elementary School, a haven of hope in Cherry Hill, a struggling neighborhood in South Baltimore.

I saw their faces in my mind's eye and thought about how, despite limited classroom resources and supplies, the children were flourishing under the influence of an exceptional teacher, Annie Bruce, in a safe and positive environment created by their principal, Dr. Susan Spath.

The Sun "adopted" Woodson last fall as part of a mentoring partnership program, and it was my great good fortune to have been a tutor, along with nine other newspaper employees.

When we volunteers gathered to discuss our mission at Woodson, we were asked to provide encouragement and support for the students of Mrs. Bruce, eight of whom are the subjects of today's photo essay cover story. Little did we tutors know how lopsided this arrangement would be; we gained so much more than we gave. Woodson is a school that shimmers with excitement and rings with laughter.

Cherry Hill can be a place of danger and deprivation, and many who reside there have lives that are both uncertain and unfair. It can also be a place of fierce family devotions and neighborhood pride, a place where the parents and grandparents of schoolchildren routinely visit classrooms and pitch in.

What brought a lump to my throat that rainy Friday was comparing the lives of my own children, with their comforts and well-endowed schools, to the lives of a group of students who, through no fault of their own, will have to triumph over steeper odds on the road toward becoming becoming successful adults.

Such is the reality faced by the school's staff and administration each day. "Society has to overcome a double standard," says Principal Spath. "Things that are accepted in schools for poor children just would not be accepted for middle-class children."

What is not accepted at Woodson is anything less than the best from the students. The teachers exhort the kids to reach and dream. "We are going to college -- all of us!" Mrs. Bruce tells her first- and second-graders. And the children say, "Yes we are!"


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