A Raven invests in pupils' success

Receiver Ismail makes a deal with youths at Woodlawn

September 26, 2001|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

As a wide receiver in the National Football League, Baltimore Raven Qadry Ismail is accustomed to signing million-dollar contracts.

But yesterday, the fleet-footed player turned the contract tables on pupils at Woodlawn Middle School.

Ismail, 30, asked 1,065 pupils to sign a four-part pact. Speaking at separate assemblies for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, Ismail called on the youngsters to respect themselves and others, achieve satisfactory attendance, maintain at least a C average and observe school rules.

"By signing this contract, you're setting yourself up for success," said Ismail, the father of two. "I want to help you be a success."

Ismail has conducted similar adopt-a-school programs twice before -- last year at Dundalk Middle School, and before that in Minnesota, where he played for the Vikings for four years.

Under Ismail's program, pupils agree to work toward his goals in return for the chance to win prizes ranging from a pizza party with the football star to a trip to a Ravens game.

Ismail's effort comes at an opportune time for Woodlawn Middle, the first Baltimore County school to be considered for state takeover because of low student performance. State education officials have given the school two years to improve.

Ismail seemed at ease yesterday as he tried to connect with pupils assembled in the school gymnasium. He described how he and his brother, Raghib "Rocket" Ismail, a wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys, struggled in middle school.

"I remember when my brother and I were in eighth grade and we weren't doing so well, and a guy came down to talk to us," Ismail said. "I see people in this auditorium who have the potential to change the world."

Most important, Ismail said, is to make the effort.

Pupils, who were dressed in the school's red-and-white uniform, said they appreciated the visit.

"It's somebody famous coming to our school, and that's his time," said Latanya Edwres, 12, a seventh-grader.

"Yeah," added classmate, Ava Carroll, 11. "He has a lot of other things to do with his time."

First-year Woodlawn Principal Jerilyn Roberts gladly accepted Ismail's help.

"It's the human connection that makes a difference," Roberts said. "It's not something that happens at every school; it's very special."

Before leaving, Ismail promised that this would not be the last time Woodlawn students would see him.

"I don't just want to come in here one day and just jet," he said. "I want to help you be a success."

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