Low turnout, high hopes launch club


Only seven of the 30 tables set up had warm bodies around them, a disappointingly cool turnout for parents and students trying to start a private club for teens.

About 800 students had indicated on paper that they would help, but just 21 showed up for the first meeting Thursday at the Carroll County Career and Technology Center.

Organizers aren't ready to give up.

"Students are a hard sell," said Angie Diehlmann, a parent who has sold the idea of all-night, safe graduation parties since 1993.

She has drawn hundreds of students to the Project Graduation all-night parties at Four Seasons Sports Complex near Hampstead. School officials matched her up with Carroll County Parents Responsible in Daily Efforts of Students (CC PRIDES), a group of North Carroll parents who organized recently to provide a place for students to go to have wholesome fun.

"I don't think we should drop it yet," Ms. Diehlmann said. "That survey is impressive."

Of the county's 6,377 high school students, 2,597 filled out a survey that parents and student volunteers distributed during lunch periods in early March. To the question of whether they would attend meetings of a drug- and alcohol-free club, 2,180 said yes. Of those who said yes, nearly 800 gave their names and phone numbers.

Thursday night was an organizational meeting, all work and no play, and not exactly a big draw for teen-agers already busy with sports and other activities, said Drew Dean, a senior at North Carroll High School who found time to attend.

A club with music, video games and pizza would be different, he said, and students would come once it got started.

"You have work, you have sports, you don't find a lot of free time, and when you do, you don't want to spend it at a meeting," he said. "I didn't expect an incredible turnout, but I was disappointed."

Because CC PRIDES has no money for a mailing list, Drew and other volunteers phoned about 800 students over the past two weeks to alert them to the meeting.

Liberty High School sophomores B. J. Hobbs and Shawn Loomis were a little surprised and flattered to get a call at home about the meeting. Shawn's parents, Jeff and Cindy Loomis, drove the boys from Eldersburg.

"I want to be on the entertainment committee," Shawn said. He wants to see video games, a pool table, a jukebox and maybe even an occasional live band at the club.

"I think it's a good idea, because it gets kids off the street," Shawn said. He said students at school have been talking about the effort to start a club. "They said it's probably going to be a good club," he said.

B. J. and Shawn usually go to Carrolltown Center on weekend nights and spend anywhere from $5 to $15. Dues at the club could be $15 to $20 a month, which the boys said they could afford.

The next step is for the teen-agers who do want the club to distribute forms to their fellow students. The forms would ask students to sign up if they intended to join the club and to donate $2 toward start-up costs.

Getting that kind of money and commitment from students is the only way the organizers can persuade businesses and elected officials to put money behind the project, said Joseph Beurer, a parent and club co-founder.

Again and again Thursday night, Mr. Beurer and Ms. Diehlmann told the students, "It will be your club," impressing upon them that it would work only if they took an active role.

"There are people who want to help you, but you've go to show a little more interest," Mr. Beurer said. "I need numbers."

Mr. Beurer, his wife, Bonnie, and Diann Davis came up with the idea for the club after their sons were suspended from North Carroll High last fall for drug-related incidents.

They said students can find drugs anywhere: at malls, on camp-outs and even overnight bus trips to "rave" parties.

The club would have an off-duty police officer hired to guard it and other security measures to assure parents their children are safe.

For parents, Ms. Davis said, "it's going to be a tremendous load off your minds to know where your kids are."

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