Poly students deserve salute for walk to aid College Fund

November 29, 1998|By Gregory Kane

'TWAS THE morning after Thanksgiving, and the brisk wind blowing across Baltimore Polytechnic Institute's parking lot made what might have been a mildly comfortable morning slightly chilly.

Some of the students jammed their hands into their jacket pockets. Others sat on a curb. Some of the wiser ones stretched their limbs, preparing for the hike that would start in a half-hour. Bottles of water stood on the registration table. The chilly students would need them after making the nearly four-mile trek along Cold Spring Lane to Morgan State University's engineering building. Much of that walk would be uphill.

About 30 had gathered around 9: 30. What was this? Were they a day late for the City-Poly game? They couldn't be. Most of those assembled were girls. Besides, the City-Poly game, thanks to the machinations of former Baltimore schools Superintendent Walter Amprey, hasn't been played on Thanksgiving in years.

"Poly students are great!" exclaimed an admittedly biased Saraunda Loughlin, a Poly teacher. The ones here had gathered -- and were still gathering as Loughlin spoke -- for Poly's first walk-a-thon to benefit the United Negro College Fund. (It's now known as the College Fund, no doubt for purposes of editing.)

Early last week, Poly's student government and Black Awareness Club filled some 80 Thanksgiving baskets for needy families. Tomorrow, they will hold a blood drive. But this morning, the day after Thanksgiving, they were at Poly to raise money for the College Fund.

"I feel that the United Negro College Fund is a wonderful organization," said Amber Lesane, a 17-year-old senior. "It's a good cause, something that's a reason to get up early the day after Thanksgiving." Amber estimates she got between 10 and 15 people to pledge money.

"I would have gotten more if I had more time," she lamented.

Alicia Howard, a 16-year-old junior, raised more money than any other student: $336. She got her pledges the old-fashioned way: through help from the family.

"I just called my relatives," Alicia said, smiling when asked what she was doing on the Friday after Thanksgiving last year.

"Eating," she said. But she remembers that at 10 a.m. on this day last year, she wasn't even out of bed yet.

"I felt it was important to participate in the walk-a-thon," Alicia emphasized. She's thinking of going to Tuskegee University or an Ivy League school when she graduates from Poly. Her goal is to be a pre-med major. She credits Poly with giving her "a strong science background."

She's part of the good news about our youth all you folks claim the media ignore. The media focus on the negative. The media say nothing good about our youth. The media were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The media, the media, the media.

Well, we're guilty on all counts -- except maybe that Jesus Christ thing. But we should cover events like this. This multiracial group of students who trudged nearly four miles uphill on one of their days off from school may not think it's such a big deal, but their elders need to remind them it is. Loughlin estimates they raised at least $3,100 for the College Fund. These students deserve to be saluted, or, in their colloquial language, they've got some "mad props" coming their way.

The walk-a-thon is Loughlin's brainchild. A Poly English teacher since 1982, Loughlin thought it would be nice for students to do something around Thanksgiving to replace the loss of the City-Poly game. She called JaiElyn Obey, the College Fund's assistant development director for Maryland, and told her of the plan. To put it mildly, Obey responded enthusiastically, showing up Friday in jeans and a College Fund sweat shirt and cap to support the students.

Once she got the green light from Obey, Loughlin put out the word via fliers and homeroom notices. By 10 a.m. Friday, she saw the fruit of her labors: some 50 to 60 students who listened attentively as she gave final instructions.

"You're going to walk over here to the traffic light and cross the street," Loughlin said, jabbing her hand eastward along Cold Spring Lane. "Stay on the left side of the street. You do have to stop at all the traffic lights."

Within minutes, the group was gone. Among the students was a smattering of faculty members, including math teacher Sam Brown and Poly Principal Ian Cohen. Loughlin would ride along in her car to monitor the march. Obey watched admiringly as the students marched off east along Cold Spring Lane.

"They're young," Obey remarked, acknowledging that whatever aching muscles the students got from the walk would soon wear off. "That's why I'm driving."

Pub Date: 11/29/98

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