School's homework center a study in cooperation


A PARTNERSHIP between Booker T. Washington Middle School on McCulloch Street and the University of Maryland at Baltimore has grown stronger and more successful over the years. The ingredients for its success are need, ability and commitment.

The partnership began in 1988 when UMAB students, faculty and administrators volunteered to help the Booker T. students focus on careers, reading, computers and health education. Employees of the university are given release time to volunteer there.

To further encourage good study habits of the students, members of the University of Maryland Medical School initiated a Homework Center, which opened at the school in February.

Students remain after school three days each week to do homework with a one-to-one tutor or, at the most, one tutor to three. Another plus is that the associations give the students role models and friendships.

Pat and John Bilello helped initiate plans for the center. John Bilello is associate professor in the department of microbiology and a researcher in the university's Cancer Center. His wife, Pat, is a research associate in the department of anatomy working with reproductive physiology, "looking at some natural products that are part of controlling the normal development of the eggs in reproduction," she says. They have two children, Peter, 8, and Katharine, 6.

Two others at UMAB who helped plan the Homework Center are Lois Roeder, associate professor in pediatrics, and Betty Biliske, who is finishing her graduate degree in the school of social work in the Carter Center.

Plans for the Homework Center began last November. The group met with Ruth Bukatman, the school's principal, to evaluate the idea. They then approached the parents and other teachers. All agreed it was a winner.

"We fashioned it after the Enoch Pratt Free Library's Homework Centers located in some of their branches. Had one of those been near Booker T., we would have had less need for ours," says John, who feels education is the key to self-worth.

"Children are so important," he continues. "In my eyes, education is a lifesaver from drugs and AIDS. Children being raised in some locations are more likely to come up against the problems of a progression from drugs to AIDS than others, and an education is the only thing which may stop it.

"Any way that you can save a human, a child, from eventual painful death, or stopping them from getting in a pathway of failure that they cannot get out of, is to get them fully equipped with an education," he says.

The center opened with 20 students and about 50 volunteers. At present there are 30 students, who have shown great improvement in school work. "For these three afternoons, we work with the students an hour or until their level of concentration breaks down," he says.

Plans are under way for a fall program in which there will also be a supervisor on hand for students who just want to study there each day and get some remedial help.

"We are never satisfied," says John. "We want more days, which means more volunteers. Anyone interested who would give us a few times a month or one session a week would certainly be welcome. Also, we want to offer something to drink and a snack and would welcome donations for that."

Volunteers are welcome from all areas. At present they include UMAB students, professors, researchers, clinicians, secretaries and maintenance workers.

The partnership between Booker T. Washington School and UMAB has won the JC Penney Golden Rule Award, the CASE Gold Medal from the Council for the Advancement of Support of Education and the Mayor's Business Recognition Award from the Greater Baltimore Committee.

Anyone who would like to donate, volunteer or discuss the program should call Neil McCabe, UMAB director of community relations, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays at 328-7820.

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