Spirits were high in the Oswego Mall townhouse development in Northwest Baltimore as eight joyful Step Up apprentices graduated and public housing families toured their newly renovated homes.
The graduates of the first Step Up class were honored recently after learning skills such as carpentry, bricklaying, tiling and painting in the project to renovate public housing developments.
A crowd of 200 applauded as graduates jumped in excitement when their names were called to honor them with certificates of completion. The apprentices had been laid off by lottery in early April, then recalled to finish their classes.
"This is a very good program," said project graduate Cheryl Murray. "I'm very proud of us."
Another apprentice worker, Diane Robinson, who has been offered a permanent position in a post office, said she is "happy to have started something and finished." Several others have been offered jobs.
The 18-month construction program provides public housing residents with skills in different trades. The first class had 58 graduates. The program is designed to help shelter public housing residents more adequately and enable them to become productive employees when given training and an opportunity.
According to Step Up director Samuel Little, "This is the first public housing development in the nation where residents have completed the rehabilitation under the Step Up program."
Last year, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City targeted Oswego Mall in the Pimlico section of Northwest Baltimore as the work project for the first Step Up class. The 35-unit townhouse development had been neglected and vandalized since 1969.
The Step Up program's second class, running from June 1995 to July 1996, will finish work at Oswego Mall, then move to Hollander Ridge, a 1,000-unit development in East Baltimore.