Summer program enriches kids with knowledge, $4.25 an hour

August 14, 1993|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

One week after school ended in June, 14-year-old Stephanie Whittle of Essex didn't feel good about summer.

She had tried to find a job, but couldn't. She said she "was just sitting around the house," already bored, when she got a chance to go back to school -- for $4.25 an hour.

She's glad she did.

"It was pretty cool," she said of the six weeks of video production, computer wizardry, cosmetology, field trips, carpentry and poetry writing she and 29 other eastern Baltimore County eighth-grade graduates enjoyed during a federally funded program that ended yesterday.

"You get breaks, and the teachers are all real nice," she said.

Ariel Paulino, Patrick Snowden and Will Davis, all students in the summer "camp," agreed.

"I'm coming back next year," Patrick declared, smiling broadly.

County school and employment training officials designed the program to help 30 kids who middle school teachers thought might benefit from some personal, attention this summer. All the kids are about to enter Patapsco, Chesapeake or Kenwood high schools on the county's eastern side.

L. Kevin Wagman, the program's director, said the kids have had some problems in middle school, especially attendance problems, which might lead to them drop out before high school graduation.

The $45,000 in federal funds used for the program paid for six teachers, two student aides, and a school bus which picked the kids up each morning and dropped them in Towson at the old Central Vo-Tech, now the Carver magnet school.

Will Davis got to star in his own lip-synced music video, learned to edit video tape, add special effects and produce a finished product. The students also learned how to use still cameras and develop their own photographs. They even built picnic benches and donated them to a nursing home.

When they weren't in school, they were on field trips to Annapolis, the Babe Ruth museum, the Maryland Science Center, the Museum of Industry, Fort McHenry, the National Aquarium and an Orioles game.

The program is just a small part of the larger federal summer jobs program, but it's a part that English teacher Joyce Baron hopes will be expanded. Ms. Baron taught the students writing skills, using poetry and prose. She was gratified to see a few suspicious, uncooperative attitudes disappear and be replaced by enthusiastic smiles as the program progressed.

"It's a pleasure teaching," she said, noting that during the regular school year she teaches 145 kids at Ridgely Middle School. "The regular year was intense," she said, compared with the no-grades, relaxed, "fun" atmosphere at Carver.

The summer kids got to pick their own subjects for writing and used the school's advanced computers to write and rewrite their work until Ms. Baron said it was right.

In her poem, Stephanie Whittle wrote that "summer is hot, but one thing it's not is something to dread." But summer is passing and Stephanie is beginning to worry about going to ninth-grade in a big new school filled with strange, older kids and teachers.

"I'm scared to go to high school," she said as she contemplated her remaining few weeks of summer.

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