Saturday morning school

February 12, 1994|By Karen Ludwig | Karen Ludwig,Sun Staff Writer

It's a Saturday morning. Most children are watching cartoons, sleeping late or playing with friends.

But about 20 pupils from Gilmor Elementary School have gathered with parents, neighbors and police at the Western District Police Station. The children aren't in trouble. They're in a new tutoring program -- created in part to keep them out of trouble.

Robert King, Brian Simpson, Xavier Tilghman and their schoolmates sit quietly at their desks, eagerly working on papers titled, "All About Me."

"I like drawing, football, and playing games with my friends," says 9-year-old Robert.

Maj. Victor Gregory looks on, smiling, as a few of the children stand and read their papers aloud. "If they don't learn to read and write, I'm afraid one day they will be meeting the police under different circumstances," he says.

Major Gregory and other Western District officers, along with community residents, are volunteers in the Fulton Community Association's new tutoring and mentoring program, which provides help in reading, writing and math to first- through fifth-graders .

"These kids have a lot of potential," says Major Gregory, who hopes the tutoring program also will help the children trust and respect the police. "They just need to be challenged to do something worthwhile, instead of hanging out on street corners."

Association President Tina Thompson says the program, which began last Saturday, is part of an effort to bolster the community.

"We want to keep the community together," she said. "We don't want our children to get into trouble or run away."

The association created the tutoring program with the help of a $2,600 grant from the Baltimore Community Foundation's Neighborhood Grants Program. The money is being used to buy supplies.

The program is held Saturday mornings in the recreation room of the Western District station. Once a month, the children will meet at First Mount Calvary Baptist Church for a day that will include a pizza party, ice cream or field trip.

"The children need to know that learning is fun too," Ms. Thompson says.

Parents are excited about the program. Some even say they wish that it would continue into the summer because it provides a constructive activity on Saturday mornings.

Darlene McLeod's 7-year-old daughter, Chakida, is in the program. "I hope she will get reinforcement in whatever area she is weak in. She gets help at home too, but I think this will help even more. She really likes learning," Ms. McLeod says.

And what do the students think? Surprisingly, not one of them complained about being in "school" on the weekend. In fact, they were all happy to be there.

"I like it here," says Robert King. "It helps me to read and write better. And it keeps me off the streets."

FOUNDATION GRANTS

The Baltimore Community Foundation awards grants to community-based groups in the city's low-income neighborhoods. A total of $175,000 was awarded in December, including these grants:

* Park Heights Terrace, Pimlico, Pall Mall and Loyola Northway received $8,000 to develop a home maintenance program involving youth and adults.

* Druid Height's Community Development Organization received $5,700 for a cultural exchange program.

* The Twenty-Sixers received $5,000 to fence and equip three lots for community functions, flea markets and a community garden.

* The Community Organization of Port Street received $2,600 for a summer camp for neighborhood children.

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