Unity Club students spotlighted Television show mines ideas of area teen-agers ANNE ARUNDEL EDUCATION


Annapolis High School's Unity Club members are used to being held up as role models for their fellow students.

But now they've taken their act nationwide.

Fifteen Annapolis students, all members of the school's Unity Club, were featured in the nationally syndicated television program "Success in Education," which aired Saturday on WJZ-TV, Channel 13.

The students were part of a group of about 30 students from Annapolis, Broadneck and Western high schools, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, and the Baltimore School for the Arts chosen to participate in the locally produced special that honors the achievements of successful blacks.

The Unity Club is designed to promote interracial understanding.

Serena Gillespie, one of the sponsors of the Unity Club and a teacher at Annapolis High School, arranged for the students to receive an audition with the production company, Career Communications Group, through a friend who works with the company.

D. J. Jazzy Jeff of the television series "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" and Darryl Bell, who portrays Ron Johnson on the sitcom "A Different World," were hosts of the special, which focused on the importance of education and how it has been used by successful blacks to build careers.

Mr. Bell's co-star on the sitcom, Baltimore native Jada Pinkett, made a guest appearance.

Students taped the special in March at Western High School in Baltimore during a daylong session in which they discussed frankly the pressures facing high school students today.

"They wanted to know how we feel about life," said 14-year-old freshman Derrick Harrison. "They wanted to know what life is like when we get into [high school.]"

The students arrived for the taping around 9 a.m. and got their first education into the world of show business. There's a lot of waiting involved, they said.

"We spent the morning sitting around and talking," said 10th grade student Tonia Smith, 16.

"To each other," added Shaukeshia Herndon, a 17-year-old junior.

"And eating bagels," added 17-year-old senior Inga Pritchett.

But by 1 p.m., the taping was under way. For the next three hours, the students talked about racism, education and a host of other topics.

Many said they were impressed with how different their hosts were from the characters they portrayed on television.

"They were very cool," said Kai Simms, an 18-year-old senior. "They were very down to earth."

Seventeen-year-old Miyoshia Williams, a junior, said she was particularly impressed with Mr. Bell.

"On TV, he's acting crazy," she said. "But then you find out he was an economics major, an all-around-type guy."

And Jason McCullers, a 16-year-old senior, said he found Ms. Pinkett "just as sexy in person as she is on TV."

But aside from getting the chance to meet Ms. Pinkett, Jason said it was important for him and others like him to show the public a side of black life they seldom see.

"It was important just to set an example of African-Americans trying to do something with their lives," Jason said. "It was important so people can see we're not all out there shooting up and gambling."

If there was one downside to the program, the students said it was in the editing process -- their three hours of talk was boiled down to an hourlong special, and many of their comments were left on the editing room floor.

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