Private school scholarship answers a mother's prayer

Parent welcomes escape from public school woes

April 22, 1999|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

For Paula Gardner and her 7-year-old daughter, Marisa, it's a question of environment.

"The environment she's in now is not conducive to learning," says Gardner, 39, a single parent who lives in Edmondson Village in West Baltimore. "She was picking up bad habits. It's not so great in the public school she's in."

Marisa attends Mary E. Rodman Elementary School and is one of 500 low-income children who won scholarships yesterday to private and parochial schools of their choice. Her mother, who earns $28,000 a year as a tenant counselor for the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, said the scholarship comes as a blessing.

"I don't want to knock the public schools because I think they're trying to do the best they can," Gardner said. "But I want Marisa away from the problems -- the children, the language, the fighting."

Gardner heard about the Children's Scholarship Fund from friends and radio advertisements. She's begun sending applications to private schools in Baltimore -- an idea that hundreds of others are also trying.

She said private schools are telling her that the waiting lists are long because many people want to take their children out of public schools.

But Gardner, who has lived in Baltimore most of her life, is hopeful that she'll get Marisa into the Baltimore Christian School on East 42nd Street. The scholarship Marisa won would apply to the tuition there.

"It's a Christian environment, and their values match my values," Gardner said. "I want her to be around that all day."

The scholarship comes at an opportune time for Gardner and her daughter. For 2 1/2 years, they had been living in Northeast Baltimore with Gardner's sister, struggling to make ends meet.

Gardner said they moved to a small rowhouse in Edmondson Village last July for "a new beginning." Marisa has been taking tap dancing and modeling classes, and her mother has been working extra hard at her Housing Authority job.

She gives recipients of Section 8 assistance lessons on being good tenants -- how to pay bills on time, how to do housekeeping and how to stay on a budget.

"I kept praying about this scholarship because I thought it would be a great opportunity for us," Gardner said. "To be selected was amazing to me. I don't believe it was an accident. It's that my prayers were answered."

Pub Date: 4/22/99

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