Summer mornings pass quickly for 100 "at-risk" students in Anne Arundel County as they play math games, write in their journals and perform science experiments.
Little seems at risk about these bright children, but most come from families where a college degree is not a given. Many are minority students who are in advanced courses now, but past experience with similar students makes the county fear these youngsters will fall behind before they get to high school.
HOSTing Bright Futures, a program sponsored by the Commission on Higher Education, prepares the middle-schoolers for tough curricula and standardized tests. It is trying to ensure that college is the natural choice for these students after high school.
Richard Benson, 11, of Linthicum has his sights set on the University of Virginia.
"If you go to college, it's easier to get a job," Richard said matter-of-factly.
The 3-year-old project, which runs through the summer, also aims to keep students of color on the fast track.
"Minority students on the elementary level start out in high-level courses, but then something happens along the way," said Pat Barton, the county's community outreach specialist. "Our goal is to keep the momentum going."
Through the year, four sites - Glen Burnie, Meade, North County and Annapolis high schools - serve the 340 students taking part in HOST, which stands for Helping One Child at a Time. This summer, the program is offered at Glen Burnie and North County high schools to about 100 students.
The middle-schoolers use computers on a daily basis to study math, science and language arts. Rising sixth-graders do problem sets and play math games on their computers. Next year's seventh-graders punch in letters, journals and essays for language arts class on their terminals.
On a recent morning, a group of 20 incoming eighth-graders gathered around an Americorps volunteer as they performed a science experiment together.
"This is more hands-on than the regular year," said Corcoran Middle School science teacher Jim Klemstine. "I couldn't take a trip to Saw Mill Creek with my regular class."
Science students recently went to the creek to survey the water for aquatic insects. The results of this experiment and others will be detailed on the Web page the class is constructing to put on the Internet.
Each grade focuses on one field; the science component was added this year.
This basis of HOST lies in "the recognition of potential and achievement," said Barton.
When teachers ask questions of their diverse students, hands flail as they cry, "Me, me, me."
Students welcomed the chance to get ahead of their classmates through active learning.
"I think playing games just helps you learn better," 11-year-old Darnell Jones of Brooklyn Park said of the computer programs his math class uses.
The need to plan for a career is constantly stressed in the classroom. And the students respond with unique visions. One wants to be a pathologist, another an entertainment lawyer. Several future doctors and scientists were among the group. Others weren't able to look ahead, but said the program still helps them.
"I want to go to college. And this program will help me write reports on what I want to be," explained Tabatha Green, 12, of North Glen Elementary.
The project counts on strong parental support, Barton said. Through the year, a Saturday workshop encourages parents and children to learn together and discuss issues like financial aid and scholarships.
"A lot of times, they get to learn about choices that they may not see as a possibility," Barton said. "This is a broadening of the parent and child's scope of possibilities."
Glen Burnie's Elizabeth Galindo said her parents encourage her to do well in school and take challenging courses.
"I'm doing this because I want to be really good at math when I grow up," the 11-year-old said. "And I'm determined to go to college."
While middle school teachers direct course work, a HOST parent is on duty while the children are in class. The parent is a member of the community and keeps in close contact with the students' parents.
Barton describes it as a parent's "eyes and ears in the school."
Pub Date: 7/28/96