For scores of city's jobless, program similar to boot camp STRIVE is an in-your-face training, placement service

June 26, 1998|By Alec Klein | Alec Klein,SUN STAFF

Scores of unemployed men and women in Baltimore will be yelled at today.

During the next three weeks, they will subject themselves to intense sessions during which they will be berated, intimidated and shaken emotionally. Some will break down in tears. For this, many of them will be grateful.

Such is the promise of STRIVE Baltimore, an in-your-face job training and placement service not unlike boot camp in the Marines. STRIVE was heralded last year in a "60 Minutes" television broadcast and is spreading nationwide in major cities.

Yesterday, more than 200 participants, local dignitaries and others celebrated the opening of STRIVE's Baltimore center, run by a nonprofit agency for out-of-work inner-city residents, from ages 18 to 40.

"It's a very confrontational, different kind of training," said

Thomas P. Coyle, executive director of Baltimore City Healthy Start Inc., the private corporation that will oversee the program.

"Tough love" is the way it's described by Joe Jones, Healthy Start's director of Employment and Men's Services.

The program, whose national headquarters is in the basement of a public housing high-rise in Harlem, was conceived in the early 1980s by former drug dealers and users and ex-convicts, Coyle said. Its goal: Change attitudes.

About 75 people are expected to show up today for the inaugural session at the center at 3002 Druid Park Drive. They will be taught on-the-job manners: Shake hands firmly at an interview. Speak up. Be on time. Dress professionally.

"We actually teach them how to sell themselves," said Kalita Chase, a trainer at the center. "The first impression is the lasting impression."

If they don't do it right, they will be told to do it again. If they don't like it, they'll be sent home, or they'll quit. Many will leave the program before the three-week session is over. But many will succeed: Eighty percent of those who graduate from the program will get a job, based on STRIVE officials' tracking of participants.

"There are two real issues that are very important," Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said at the ribbon-cutting yesterday. "The first is aptitude but the most important thing is not aptitude -- it's attitude."

The program will teach practical skills as well, including how to use computers, writing resumes and job interviews.

For participants and those who will eventually employ them, the program costs nothing. The Abell Foundation has contributed $100,000 and has approved another $150,000. An additional $375,000 is coming from Empower Baltimore Management Corp., a nonprofit group that oversees the distribution of federal block grants.

Pub Date: 6/26/98

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