NAACP fund-raiser focuses on helping youths Baltimore chapter plans several projects to expand opportunities for children

November 30, 1997|By Diana K. Sugg | Diana K. Sugg,SUN STAFF

More than 200 people gathered early Saturday morning in their Sunday best for the Baltimore NAACP's prayer breakfast, an annual fund-raiser focused this year on the local branch's efforts to recruit young people and guide them in successful lives.

"We've used young people in a very minor way, to stuff envelopes, to help get letters done," said Dorothy Clayborne, the event's chairwoman. "Now we want it to be an educational focus."

Saying education is the only way youths can make it in society, members plan to try everything from SAT preparation classes to re-creating a PTA at Northern High School, the troubled city school where 1,200 students were suspended recently.

"When I went to school, the disruptive students were in the minority. Now, the ones who want to learn are shunned. This is a tragedy," said Rodney A. Orange, president of the NAACP's Baltimore chapter. He noted that the organization supports Alice Morgan Brown, Northern High's principal. "We want to encourage those who want to do well. We want to encourage parents to get more involved."

To prevent students from dropping out of school, the organization may set up pilot projects in two middle schools, trying steps like tapping churches or using sports to channel teen-agers' energy, said Thompkins Weaver Jr., chairman of the education committee and vice president for leadership for the Baltimore City PTAs.

He said those efforts were in the early stages. Weaver also stressed the role of parents: "I, as a parent, have a responsibility to deliver to the school door a kid prepared to learn."

Of the NAACP's more than 400,000 members nationwide, about 70,000 are college age or younger. Locally, roughly 500 people are enrolled in six youth councils, as well as in chapters at Morgan State and the Johns Hopkins universities and at Coppin State College. The NAACP is working to re-establish one at Towson University.

The NAACP trains young members in etiquette, basic communication skills and the organization's history, and strives to promote self-esteem. The group's pre-SAT course has been drawing more than 25 students every Saturday, said Audrey Avery, youth adviser for the NAACP youth council at New Shiloh Baptist Church.

In other matters, the city chapter plans to appoint a blue-ribbon committee to begin raising the $150,000 needed to help fund the group's national convention, which Baltimore will be host of in 2000.

"We're very optimistic about the future," said Orange.

The breakfast was capped by a sermon delivered by the Rev. Vashti McKenzie, who called on the crowd to take action.

"We can't afford to say, 'It doesn't concern us.' We have to circle the wagons, build our consensus. We have to watch day and night, and call whatever is unfair, unfair," McKenzie said, noting that scholarships for minorities and affirmative action in general are being challenged.

Shirin Nikbakht, 17, a senior at Bryn Mawr School who attended the breakfast, said she remembers her grandmother and other relatives working with the NAACP. Now, with a recruitment drive at her school, she plans to join:

"It just seems like a natural thing to do."

Pub Date: 11/30/97

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