A passion to teach kids Charity: Volunteers posed yesterday for a fund-raising calendar featuring full- figured black women that will benefit Gail Leonard's 'Daze Kids' program.

November 10, 1997|By Tamara Ikenberg | Tamara Ikenberg,SUN STAFF

If you're looking for a 1998 calendar featuring Kate Moss or her emaciated fashion pals, steer clear of the calendar being created by Gail Leonard.

"There are enough calendars with skinny women," says Leonard, 41. She is wearing a slinky, black, off-the-shoulder dress with strands of gold-colored sequins. "I didn't want skinny women in my calendar."

Late last month, Leonard sent a handful of Baltimore businesses and organizations a fax advertising for full-figured black women to pose for a black history calendar.

The calendar is a fund-raiser to expand "The Daze Kids," a computer education program for children and teen-agers that Leonard started this year as an extension of her business. That business is Computer Daze, a small World Wide Web design, software training and consulting business she operates from her Woodlawn home.

"The Daze Kids" started as a twice-monthly summer activity. Now, Leonard is trying to earn the money to make it a twice-weekly after-school activity.

"I've seen the computer programs they have in the schools, and they're terrible," Leonard says. "I hope I'll be able to eventually take my program into a school."

Yesterday morning, about 17 models-for-a-day gathered at Ashley Stewart Unlimited large-size clothing store in Mondawmin Mall in Baltimore for the calendar photo shoot.

In a hurricane of sequins, velvet and gold lame, the models accessorized and primped, occasionally pausing in front of a mirror to clasp a necklace or master a zipper.

"I feel like a little girl getting ready to go to the prom," says Mary Bazemore, 40, wearing a black dress adorned with abalone sequins. Bazemore, a Catonsville resident, works for Baltimore's Healthy Start program. "This is evening wear. I'm getting ready to go to the ball."

Although the glitz and glamour are intoxicating, the participants haven't forgotten the real reason for posing.

"It's an honor to be a part of this, knowing what the cause is," says Mary Levi, 38.

Levi, a West Baltimore resident, also works for Healthy Start. "I would like to see a program like Gail's in effect at every school," she says.

But nobody is more serious about the program than Leonard, who says she is determined to use her computer skills to advance the next generation.

"It puts them ahead of the game," Leonard says.

In November 1996, when she got the idea for "The Daze Kids," Leonard went to a client, Healthy Start, and asked whether she could use the computer lab in its North Carey Street facility for her program.

The class, which required a $15 registration fee, lasted from January to May, and included youths ages 6 to 16. It started with about 10 students and doubled in size by the end.

"The Daze Kids" met every other Saturday. Leonard taught basic computer skills and introduced participants to the Internet. The students also wrote short passages and articles that were added to a Web site they created with the help of Leonard and a simple cut-and-paste program (at www.computer-daze.com).

Leonard is also trying to reinforce to her students that education is a source of pride.

"I tell them it's OK to be smart," she says. "Right now, being a nerd is the best thing you can be."

And the program should be churning out many more skilled nerds in the future. That is, if the enthusiasm generated at the calendar shoot is any indication of things to come for Leonard and "The Daze Kids."

Leonard says she is thrilled with the shoot's turnout and the overall professionalism, from the makeup artist to the photographer.

"This has turned into something really elaborate," she says.

"I was originally going to take some pictures with my own camera and ... make copies."

Pub Date: 11/10/97

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