Award-winning students at Carver High prove potential of city schools

February 17, 2002|By GREGORY KANE

CITY COPS rounded up some truant Northern High School students last week, cited them for curfew violations and then herded them back to school.

So this is news?

A Northwestern District officer was doing the same thing in Pimlico. In one week, he handed out 37 curfew citations to students who were supposed to have their butts in either Pimlico Middle School or Northwestern High School. One kid got four citations. One 13-year-old -- a strapping 80-pounder -- had about nine bags of crack on him.

Such is the news we are used to getting about city public schools these days. The news media are constantly chided for accentuating the negative and not reporting the positive. But we have to plead not guilty on this one.

Newspaper editors may claim to have many talents. But telepathy isn't one of them. If folks want us to write positive things, they'll have to tell us.

Two people aware of that are Carole Todd and George Plitt, the head of guidance counseling and the principal, respectively, of Carver Vocational-Technical High School in West Baltimore. When Carver's students do something well, Todd and Plitt make sure somebody in the media knows it.

So it was that on Feb. 9, eight Carver students won awards in the Region III competition held by the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America. All the winners were seniors. Dean Jones, Kenneth Dorsey and April White won second place for, respectively, food and beverage management, culinary arts and commercial baking.

Dennis Peaton, Omar Hill-El and Sumitra Rideout won third place for, respectively, cabinetmaking, technical drafting and cosmetology.

Louis McCraw won first place in the challenging technical drafting competition, and Michelle Harris won first place in cosmetology.

Vying against Carver were two Anne Arundel County schools -- the Center for Advanced Technology North and the Center for Advanced Technology South -- and city schools Mervo, Patterson, Edmondson, Southwestern and Lake Clifton. Carver won the most awards of all the city schools.

But that's not all.

In their first year of varsity debating, Carver sophomores Marcus Pettiford and Quentin Glenn went undefeated at a competition held at Mount St. Joseph High School. The Pettiford-Glenn combo defeated a team from Baltimore County's Franklin High School twice and Arundel High School once to go 3-0.

"I felt proud about it because I'm representing Carver, and I'm tired of the stereotype that students at black schools don't learn," Glenn said.

"I had the mentality that I was going to win, and I had my heart set on winning," Pettiford added.

Of the VICA place winners, Dorsey was the most uninhibited in answering interview questions.

"I was very excited about competing," Dorsey said. "I'm very skilled in the art of food-making. We felt kind of inferior going against those Anne Arundel schools every year. They talked about how they won every year. Me, I like to compete. I went in with the mentality of `I don't care where you're from, you're not better than me.' "

Dorsey's confidence must have spread to some of his schoolmates.

"We psyched each other up," Jones said. "This is my first competition. It was exhilarating."

White didn't exactly start off with flying colors.

"I thought I wasn't going to place at all," she said. "I crashed and burned on the cookies. I did better on the apple pie."

McCraw said he might have expected to place third, or even second -- but not first. After his former schoolmate Harris -- both went to Benjamin Franklin Middle School -- won first place, too, Harris surmised it must be something about Ben Franklin M.S.

Peaton, after the regionals, says he is now more confident about going to the state competition.

"I've got the mentality to do what I can do," Peaton said.

All the students gave credit for their success to Carver's faculty. Dorsey praised Cynthia Coleman-Howell as not just an instructor but also a mother figure "who lends me gas money and feeds me dinner at her home."

Peaton said Thomas Dill "taught me everything I know about cabinetmaking. I knew nothing about cabinetmaking."

Pettiford and Glenn gave a nod to Steven Sprouse, who started Carver's debate team.

The most cogent quote from the group was the brainchild of Dorsey, who is to shyness what Muhammad Ali once was to silence.

"This is a nearly all-black school," he said of Carver. "By us being minorities, we could blame it on racism for not giving us a fair opportunity. But if you work hard and you're the best out there, race has nothing to do with it."

Kudos to Mr. Dorsey for pointing out what hasn't dawned on all too many black leaders yet. And kudos to this bunch of Carver kids for proving, once again, that there is much good news in city public schools.

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