Attorney general to honor youth program that disbanded last year after funding loss Curran seeking donations to restore Advokids Project

September 29, 1998|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Matiea Price began her career at Baltimore's Walbrook Senior High School failing her classes. "My grades were like, whoosh! D's and F's," she said.

Then, she met Steffie Rapp, who enrolled her in Advokids Project, a peer counseling and mentoring program for troubled youth. Matiea, now a 16-year-old junior, said Advokids changed her perception of school and self, inspiring her to become a B student.

The program's success helping Matiea and dozens of other students has made it one of 15 programs from across the state that Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. will recognize today.

But for Advokids, it will be a posthumous celebration. While efforts are under way to revive the program -- funded by start-up grants from the state -- it ran out of money a year ago. Several other programs throughout the state are facing termination because of a shortage of money, said Carolyn A. Quattrocki, a special assistant to Curran.

Curran has asked former gubernatorial candidate Raymond F. Schoenke Jr. to help raise private money to restore the Advokids program, and the attorney general said he hopes other business people will help support other projects.

"They're really working very effectively," Curran said. "The net effect is there is a safer, sounder community. But I don't think the government can give grant after grant."

These programs -- among 180 such projects throughout Maryland -- help prevent juvenile delinquency and bolster student achievement, Curran said. In general, they provide services from the time students leave school to when parents arrive home from work, the hours when most youth problems occur, he said.

They include peer counseling and teen courts, young fathers programs, athletic leagues and educational workshops.

The awards come just a day after Gov. Parris N. Glendening touted statistics that showed a drop in juvenile arrests in Maryland -- including a 7 percent drop in arrests for violent crimes such as murder, rape and robbery and a 2 percent drop in arrests for all crimes.

Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend attributed the decline to programs such as Curran is honoring.

Schoenke said he is soliciting money to establish a fund to continue Advokids. He said it would take about $100,000 to get it up and running.

But that won't help Walbrook students. Provided funds are raised, the program will begin in January, at Frederick Douglass Senior High School.

To many of the students from Walbrook's Advokids, receiving the honor now is like a television show that wins an Emmy after it has been canceled.

Shantae Sutton, 17, a Walbrook senior, said the counseling and mentoring taught her to resolve problems without allowing her anger to get the best of her. "If you had problems, you just talked with your big buddy," Shantae said. "Advokids gave a lot of positive images to the school."

Rapp, 31, a social worker who ran the Advokids Project for two of its three years, called it "a really good program, and it definitely was making a difference."

About 160 students participated in Advokids, attending workshops, traveling on field trips to museums and attending skating and bowling outings.

Judge Robert M. Bell, the state's top judge and one of those who selected Advokids to be honored, said he was disappointed to hear that the program had run out of money.

He said more resources are needed to keep the programs operating, so that the state can keep its youth out of trouble and the expensive judicial system.

"It goes right back to the old saying, 'You either pay me now or pay me later.' "

Pub Date: 9/29/98

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