Seventy-five volunteers -- including high school and college students -- were sworn in yesterday as Baltimore launched its Summer of Service campaign, a seven-week program that will put the young people to work on education, health and conservation projects.
Baltimore is among 12 cities and states to take part in the $50 million initiative that was launched by President Clinton. The vTC Summer of Service campaign is a scaled down version of the president's national service initiative, which would provide college students with a $5,000 stipend in return for community service work.
Eli Segal, director of the White House Office on National Service, attended the ceremony, which was held in City Hall Plaza. He said the administration hopes the Summer of Service campaign will generate public support for the national service initiative, which has been approved by key committees in the House and Senate.
"Hopefully, the bill will pass Congress before the August recess," Mr. Segal said yesterday. "Community service is the cost-effective way of turning our communities over to us again."
Mr. Segal said the Summer of Service program has 1,500 volunteers nationwide, but the national service initiative would enroll 25,000 students during the first year.
"There is a whole galaxy of needs. These kids are being paid minimum wage work for more than minimum wage responsibility," Mr. Segal said.
Baltimore's Summer of Service program will cost about $500,000. The University of Maryland contributed about $68,000 to fund the local program. The program's participants are between the ages of 17 and 25 and they will receive minimum wage -- $4.25 an hour -- in addition to a $1,000 education stipend.
Program participants will work for MPower, a coalition of Maryland service organizations, including the Center for Political Leadership at the University of Maryland, the Maryland Student Service Alliance, and Civic Works, the city's Youth Services Corps.
The 75 participants will perform services such as tutoring children, renovating a recreation center and playground, educating children about sexual activity and substance abuse, and constructing the Gwynns Falls Greenway from the Middle Branch Park on the Patapsco River to Leakin Park.
"I tip my hat to President Clinton for making this program happen," said Aaron Hill, a 20-year-old student at Catonsville Community College. Mr. Hill and five other volunteers work at the Mount Royal Recreation Center in West Baltimore teaching 10- to 14-year-olds about sex, substance abuse and nutrition.
Kevin Harris, another Summer of Service volunteer, has been assigned to Project Safe Haven on 25th Street and Greenmount Avenue. There, he works with other volunteers tutoring 5- to 15-year-olds in drug and alcohol prevention and African-American history.
"I wanted to do something positive this summer because I will probably have an internship next summer," said Mr. Harris, an economics major at the University of Maryland. "We are giving these kids alternative activities from drugs and crime."