Young people helping to map city's resources for children Youths go door to door to uncover programs

November 01, 1996|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Youths armed with pens and clipboards are canvassing Baltimore neighborhoods, searching for resources that help children grow up safe and healthy.

"I discovered resources where I never would have expected them to be -- like a drug counseling program run by a bakery on Garrison Boulevard," said Terrell Smith, 15, one of the project's youth organizers.

About 180 youths, ranging in age from 14 to 21, earn $6 per hour for their participation in the city-wide Youth Mapping Project, which began in September. On Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons, they hit the streets and document what is going on in city neighborhoods.

The Youth Mapping Project project is part of Safe and Sound, a campaign that grew out of a $400,000 grant Baltimore received from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation last year to develop a plan that will ensure the health and safety of the city's children.

Baltimore is competing with seven other cities that received funding. In December 1997, five will receive up to $5 million each to carry out their plans.

"We go block to block, interviewing clergy members, community leaders and business owners to find out what resources exist in their area for young people and to record conditions that need to be improved," said Latricia Blackwell, 15, of the 2400 block of Woodbrook Ave.

Blackwell and about 20 youngsters are working out of the Druid Heights Community Development Corp. on McCulloh Street. They finished surveying the Central District this week.

Each of the city's nine districts will be mapped in the next few weeks, and the data the youths collect will be entered by researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health into a computer program. The program will produce maps providing an overall view of resources and pinpointing areas that need additional services.

When the maps are finished, the youths will go back into the neighborhoods they surveyed to spread the word about what they found. And to keep the information up to date, they are hoping to make the mapping campaign an annual event.

After the needs of each neigh- borhood are identified, the youths will work to overcome conditions -- such as domestic abuse and drug addiction -- that prevent children from growing up in a safe environment.

"This program is vitally important," Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said yesterday at a news conference on the mapping project. "We have to make this city a friendly place for our young people. They are our future."

Funding for Safe and Sound is also provided by the Fund for Populations at Risk, the Charles Crane Family Foundation Inc., the Baltimore Community Foundation and Associated Black Charities.

Pub Date: 11/01/96

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