Promise Summit sets goals for safe, healthy children Baltimore vies for grant to fund implementation

September 14, 1997|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

Stop children from killing each other. Ensure that children can read by third grade. Give children something to do after school.

Those were the three top goals expressed in a vote yesterday by almost 5,000 Baltimore adults and children at an all-day Baltimore's Promise Summit at the Baltimore Arena.

They were helping develop an "action plan" to make life safer and healthier for city children and to win a national competition for $4 million to $6 million from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation of Princeton, N.J.

They also signed cards with names and phone numbers to volunteer to tutor children, organize drug prevention programs, become a "block buddy" for neighborhood children and fix lights in a basketball court among scores of "community commitments."

The project, directed for 18 months by Hathaway C. Ferebee, is intended to make Baltimore one of five cities to win the grants from the foundation in December.

If the city's entry loses, leaders vowed to make good on their promises for specific projects.

One voter, Barbara Lumpkins 54, of Irvington, mother of six including four adopted children with special needs, lost a nephew to gunfire two years ago.

Accompanied by two children and two grandchildren, she said she thought that, out of the 12 child-friendly goals, reading by the third grade was key to solving many problems among children.

"If they can read, they can do more, have more pride in themselves. If they can't read, they will feel hopeless, become the class clowns, end up hopeless and in trouble," she said.

Lumpkins also voted in favor of goals of ending gun deaths, offering drug treatment on demand, reducing teen-age pregnancies and assuming values, such as respect for others and taking responsibility for one's children.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, after greeting children from an East Baltimore youth center, said of the program, "These 12 goals everyone can support. I personally most favor ending juvenile gun deaths. They haven't had a teen-age murder under 16 in Boston in the last 18 months."

The residents each voted for five of the 12 goals.

Among them were increasing child care for working parents, reducing truancy and absentee rates and increasing graduation rates, improving opportunities for dropouts for alternative learning and jobs, increasing training and job chances for families, devising plans for safer neighborhoods, and building a comprehensive network to strengthen families.

Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend told an opening crowd of several hundred that "I'm truly inspired" by Baltimore's program, which she said met the May challenge of President Clinton's summit, America's Promise, as a major first step to make life better for children.

Yesterday's enthusiastic turnout, she said, will invigorate plans for Maryland's Promise, a statewide summit on volunteerism and community service Oct. 9 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Then, like others, she voted by putting five green stickers on boards for her preferred goals: ending gun deaths; shared values of respect and responsibility; healthy communities; drug treatment on demand; and third graders who can read.

Told that homicides headed the list of worries of a number of participants, police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier noted that hundreds of Police Athletic League children were taking part in the program at the arena.

"The key is a safe environment for other positive things. At PAL, we hook children with athletics, but then other aspects are emphasized: education, arts and culture, and character development."

Frazier said, "The No. 1 priority in the Police Department remains reducing gunshot violence. We had 2,500 incidents in 1993, and we'll be under 1,000 this year."

Pub Date: 9/14/97

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