Eugene M. Lang talks about his "dreamers" as though they are members of his family, and in a sense they are.
In 1981, when the industrialist was invited to address the sixth-graders at his old elementary school in East Harlem, he impulsively announced he would pay for their schooling through college if they would stay in school and keep their grades up. Lang surprised even himself with the announcement.
"That was my moment of epiphany," Lang said the other morning at a downtown breakfast sponsored by the Baltimore Mentoring Partnership. Since that day 16 years ago, Lang's "I Have a Dream" program has been replicated in 64 cities, including Baltimore, and 2,500 dreamers are enrolled in 400 colleges and universities across the nation. More than 10,000 students have taken part in the program since 1981.
Lang, 78, has put a good deal of his money where his mouth is: as much as $100 million, by one estimation. He was in the city to ask Baltimoreans to donate time and money to the mentoring partnership and its four parts, including the Lake Clifton-Eastern Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), the city's version of "I Have a Dream."
Lang said "adopting a dreamer" for 10 years costs about $450,000, far less than the cost of incarceration in the same period. "Ninety percent of our dreamers have [high school] diplomas, and 60 percent have gone on to higher education," Lang said, "but I don't think of the dreamers as statistics. Not all of them have succeeded, and a successful outcome is quite subjective."
Successful dreamers might not have attended college at all, Lang said, but might hold a steady and fulfilling job.
While Lang spoke, Bob Bonnell, a retired Baltimore businessman who started the EOP 11 years ago, beamed. If a 72-year-old can be the protege of a 78-year-old, that's what Bonnell is. Neither man brags about the time and money he has invested, but both have more energy than those half their age.
"We spend money on needless things, like multimillion-dollar stadiums," said another speaker, Dawniece Roberts, a 14-year-old student at Edmondson-Westside High School and a seven-year veteran of Project RAISE, a mentoring program. "Yet we cut programs for children."
Book offers 'common sense' to teachers in urban schools
Walter Gill doesn't have a fortune to invest, but he, too, cares about urban education, and he's written -- and published -- a book about it.
His "Common Sense Guide to Non-Traditional Urban Education" (Winston-Derek, 384 pages, $15.95) is the product of two years of work. It's full of advice on how to salvage schools in the cities.
Gill, 60, has had a varied career. He's been a college professor, an artist and a special education teacher. Now, he says, he's "looking for work."
Readers might pause at some of Gill's suggestions. He says, for example, that fewer -- not more -- jobs will require a four-year college education by the end of the millennium. But it's all there: the psychological damage done to African-American boys, Ebonics, schools of the future, Afrocentrism.
Gill says a classroom of urban children is like a street gang. It has leaders and followers and can spin out of control if the teacher doesn't know the ropes.
"I'm a nontraditionalist," Gill said in an interview. "I'm an artist. I was trained as an artist. I just happen to have a Ph.D."
This week will be quite a time for Gill, who has five children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Friday, he'll be inducted into the hall of fame at City College, where, in 1955, he was one of the first blacks to graduate from a formerly white Baltimore high school.
Saturday at 2, he'll talk and sign books at Enoch Pratt Central Library. And Sunday, he'll be honored by the Baltimore chapter of his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi.
Hebbville center teachers seek alumni for reunion
When school reunions are on tap, it's often alumni looking for lost teachers.
In the case of one reunion, it's teachers looking for lost alumni.
This reunion, on Feb. 22, is for about 500 youngsters with learning disabilities who attended Hebbville Educational Center from 1969 to 1979.
"Almost all of the records are lost," said Janice Levitt, a counselor who worked in the federally funded Hebbville program. Students with difficulty learning to read -- but with above-average IQs -- attended the school, traveling from all over western Baltimore County to the center at 3113 Ridgewood Ave., Levitt said.
When the center lost federal support, she said, it closed.
To contact reunion organizers, call 410-321-8523.
Pub Date: 11/12/97