Future designing women -- and men -- receive head start this summer

Vocational program encourages pupils to try `gender equity'

July 26, 1999|By Zerline A. Hughes | Zerline A. Hughes,SUN STAFF

Jerwon Bethel spent his summer sewing a denim ensemble -- vest, shorts and two hats -- that he struts in every chance he gets.

A reversible vest gives it that store-bought look, and it fits fine, thank you.

Twelve-year-old Jerwon learned his skills in the past two months at Edmondson Westside High School's Career Technology Summer Camp.

The six-week program introduces Baltimore seventh- and eighth-graders to vocational options through 13 courses that focus on such pursuits as styling hair, designing homes on the computer, and baking cakes. On Thursday, the program's final day, the camp will present an awards ceremony to recognize pupils' achievements.

Summer course selection is shaped by an unusual criterion: Pupils are encouraged to choose classes they wouldn't ordinarily take.

"We're promoting gender equity," said Carolyn Holmes, camp director. "All the girls take traditionally male courses, and the guys take traditionally female courses.

"After they initially reject the idea, they excel. My main objective is to get the girls in better-paying jobs, and the guys to recognize their responsibilities as caregivers and good parents. That's all a part of being a good worker."

Begun 10 years ago, the program is run by Baltimore City Public Schools Office of Career Technology Education, and funded by a federal grant and private entities such as Phoenix Pharmaceuticals and the Fulwood Foundation.

The city schools contributed $125,000 to the program this year.

Participating in the camp this summer were 390 pupils, all of whom maintained good attendance records during the school year and were referred by school guidance counselors.

Eighth-grader Briell McCoy, who appeared frequently in the fashion show to the appreciative cheers of the audience, decided to add cosmetology to a list of possible career paths.

"It helped me to realize that I want to do business, psychology -- and cosmetology, because I like to give beauty tips," Briell, 12, said. "I'm glad Mrs. Holmes took her time to give us help and give us somewhere to go."

Parents and community members are strongly urged to attend this week's graduation because it gives pupils a sense of pride, Holmes said.

"They were exposed to a lot of different things where they were able to use their talents," said parent and fashion show attendee Dee Randall. "I came to support [my 12-year-old daughter Andrea] and to support all of the kids. It helps them to be committed. It also helps to build self-esteem and exercise some independence."

Friday's fashion show gave pupils such as Harlem Park Middle School's Quinton Samuels, 12, a chance to walk the catwalk of the school's auditorium stage with a huge grin -- which grew wider the longer he was on stage.

Though he learned how to sew and build cars this summer, Quin- ton went to the program with other goals: "I'm here because I want to stay out of the sun and be drug-free." He came away with an unexpected lesson: People can achieve their dreams.

Jerwon Bethel's second summer in the program has made him proud of his sewing abilities -- even if the Southwest Academy student doesn't plan to be a tailor.

"I thought I couldn't sew because there were so many steps. I stayed after school to finish my work for the fashion show, and now I'm really good."

Pub Date: 7/26/99

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