Making timely efforts to help truants; Ed...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Making timely efforts to help truants; Ed Hastry: The 0) Baltimore County travel agent has won a volunteer award for his program for dealing with kids who cut school.

People magazine hasn't included Ed Hastry on its "Most Beautiful People" list. But Maryland's Volunteer Awards program has.

The Baltimore County travel agent is one of this year's winners for his latest endeavor -- Project Attend, which deals with chronically truant students.

"We badger them every day," he says.

Students are warned that if they stay truant, their parents could be fined or even jailed.

For Mr. Hastry, volunteering is practically a full-time occupation, sometimes more than 30 hours a week, even though he owns and runs a travel agency.

He began volunteering in the Baltimore County schools in 1994 when administrators came looking for a mediator for high-school students. He was familiar with the work. In 1990, a police captain recruited Mr. Hastry to mediate domestic and neighborhood disputes. He was glad to use his skills with young people.

"I felt a need to help mediate the kids with all their trials and tribulations," he says. "It's become a full-time thing." When students at the Woodbourne Center Day School go to Brother Tyehimba's class, they don't get out their pens and paper. Instead, they reach for their drums and prepare for an hour of training in the dance and drum music of West Africa.

Tyehimba McCollough (known simply as Brother Tyehimba) has taught the class for two years, but drumming is not what he envisioned for himself while studying at Bowie State University. "Football was my thing," he says of his college days. A major in physical education, he played on the football team and dreamed of the NFL. After graduation, Brother Tyehimba tried out unsuccessfully for the Redskins, and wasn't sure what else to do. He needed to work, but says he was "looking for an outlet to do recreational activities."

His opportunity came when he was hired by Woodbourne, a public school for emotionally troubled youngsters, to be an activity therapist. Brother Tyehimba introduced the students to his hobby, playing and dancing to West African drumming music, and noticed a change. "Many of the students who had previously been viewed as unmotivated or unreachable became enthusiastic," he says.

Brother Tyehimba, 41, now teaches a separate class for dancing and drumming, and he credits the discipline of working with others for the class' beneficial effect on its students. "It teaches them discipline and respect," he says.

Jenny Komatsu

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