Civic Works program enables youths to build toward future Group offers job training, educational opportunities

August 14, 1996|By Kaana Smith | Kaana Smith,SUN STAFF

Armed with hammers and construction helmets and wearing their signature red T-shirts, seven youths from inner-city Baltimore set out yesterday to make a neighborhood a little safer and to work toward a successful future.

Members of Civic Works, a city program for training youths, they were in Reservoir Hill boarding up their 500th vacant home.

The sounds of electric drills and the pounding of hammers attracted the attention of curious children and adults who watched from upstairs windows and front stoops as the youths climbed ladders and carried plywood outside the house at 708 Newington Ave.

Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III also watched.

"This program gives them a work ethic and a background in the world of work," Henson said. "And it just so happens I also need some houses boarded up."

Since late January, the crew, dubbed the board-up team, has been working four days a week to fulfill a contract with the city to help board up homes in communities such as Mount Clare, Boyd-Booth, Franklin Square, Poppleton, Harlem Park and Upton.

The youths, ages 17 to 25, were chosen from more than 100 applicants who applied in December.

The nonprofit Civic Works program, founded in 1992, does community service and provides local youths with job training and educational opportunities. It also instills in them the sense that they are an important part of their community, said Dana M. Stein, executive director of Civic Works.

After 1,700 hours of work, each member receives a $4,725 scholarship for college or vocational school.

Keith Pettigen says the program has made a big difference in his life. At age 20, he had a son and no high school diploma. The future looked bleak for Pettigen, who said he had trouble keeping a job longer than a month.

But, for the past seven months, he not only has kept a job but is preparing to obtain his high school equivalency. Also, he has decided to use his scholarship to attend Coppin State College and, ultimately, medical school.

"When I came to this program, it wasn't just about a job and a steady paycheck," Pettigen said. "It was a chance to upgrade myself."

Pub Date: 8/14/96

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