Camp teaches youths to do an 'about-face' Teamwork: Students learn to use leadership skills during drills that are the xTC basis for a possible after-school program in Taneytown.

July 19, 1998|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Twelve-year-old Jason Amoss, a Taneytown seventh-grader with the build of a linebacker, found himself struggling to scale a nearly 7-foot wall at a military obstacle course.

With cries of "Come on, Jason, you can do it" and some quick brainstorming with his teammates from Northwest Middle School, he conquered the wall, one of eight obstacles at a leadership program at Camp Fretterd Military Reservation in Reisterstown.

Twenty Carroll County seventh- and eighth-graders, ages 11 to 13, proved that challenging obstacles can be conquered with teamwork and problem-solving. In Jason's case, his teammates hung behind him to provide a timely hoist as he scaled the wall.

Jason's success drew cheers and brought a smile to the face of Brig. Gen. Larry McBee, host of the Maryland National Guard camp and project director of ABOUT FACE, an after-school program that strives to teach leadership skills to children considered to be at risk for delinquency problems.

On Thursday, the campers' "I can'ts" were soon replaced by "We cans" at the spacious complex off Hanover Pike. McBee and his staff provided eight demanding drills made more complex because speed and individuality were secondary to teamwork.

"We found out that we had to all step at the same time, or we couldn't move anywhere," said Lauren Gillis, 13.

McBee was eager to give students a sampling of ABOUT FACE, which he plans to implement at the Taneytown school in September.

A modified version has been used for two years at some Baltimore and Baltimore County middle schools, he said.

McBee is awaiting approval of a Justice Department grant, which would pay 75 percent of the $80,000 cost to operate the program at the Carroll school. He said he was confident the program would go forward if they don't receive the grant.

The Maryland National Guard routinely enlists private and community support for such programs, so they can be offered free.

ABOUT FACE would be open from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. three days a week during the school year, McBee said. Paid and volunteer staff members would offer an hour of homework support; an hour devoted to topics such as violence, drugs, peer pressure and teen sex; and an hour of group recreation.

The Maryland National Guard camp's field trips included a day at Cunningham Falls State Park in Frederick County. The event featured canoeing and rowing exercises.

The campers' lessons in futility and frustration -- they were traveling in circles -- turned into lessons of success and boosted self-esteem.

"They began as 20 individuals and now are a team of 20," said David Storey, leadership camp director and a physical education teacher at Taneytown Elementary School.

Pub Date: 7/19/98

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