A free, two-week tutoring program at Freetown Elementary School is giving some Anne Arundel County schoolchildren a place to learn and have fun this summer.

The program, run by three black women's groups in Glen Burnie, started Monday and will be held each weekday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. through July 29.

"What we're trying to do in two weeks is give them a sense of self-esteem and self-confidence that they could not achieve in a large classroom," said Dorothy Weddington, chapter president of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

This is the 11th year the women have run the program to help youngsters in one of the county's neediest areas. The school is in the 7900 block of Freetown Road.

Alpha Kappa Alpha started the program. The Delta Sigma Theta sorority joined the effort five years ago, and the Glen Burnie chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women came aboard last year.

"This really helps provide the service that none of us could provide by ourselves," said Ms. Weddington, who teaches seventh-grade social studies at Magothy River Middle School. "As black people, we need to be about helping each other, not competing."

Each group puts up money to buy workbooks, supplies and food. The children can keep their workbooks and some of the materials. At the end of the program, they get a certificate, a dictionary and a book.

"It's kind of like a starter set," said Ms. Weddington, adding that many of the children do not have books at home. "We hope that it might open a door for them."

Though most of the children in the program attend Freetown Elementary, any child who signs up can attend. The children are pretested for placement in reading and math. Depending on their strengths or their weaknesses, they may be tutored in a group or individually.

"We try to work one-on-one with the kids," said Rita Brooks, a retired Baltimore Public Schools teacher and a first vice president of the Delta Sigma Theta chapter.

The day starts with juice, then about an hour of reading and an hour of math. The children also get a midday break of juice and cookies.

"These children are very good children. They give up their summers to come out here," said Ms. Brooks. "It's wonderful."

Montae Lawson, 10, rides his bike from home, one mile away, to work on his reading and math skills. Yesterday, he and two girls sat in a circle and took turns reading aloud from a short story on life in the 1900s. Their tutor stood nearby, listening, ready to help if they stumbled over a word.

Montae said that he makes Bs and Cs in school and dreams of becoming a police officer. Or maybe an Army pilot. Or a professional football player.

This is his first year in the program. He said he thinks it "will help my reading and math."

Niesha Washington, 11, sat in the circle with Montae. She dreams of being a singer and said that the story taught her "that in the 1900s, they didn't have no bathtubs, and in the 1900s, they had old kind of stuff and if you saved it you could get a lot of money from it."

Before yesterday's tutoring session ended, Cecelia Moody walked in and signed up two of her children, Shamone, 7, and James, 10. They make As and Bs at Freetown, but were getting bored this summer, she said. She figured the program would be something fun and educational.

"This way I feel good because they're learning," she said.

For information, call 551-6844.

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