After-school care for adolescents is criticalI read...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

After-school care for adolescents is critical

I read with great interest Erin Texiera's article in The Sun on Dec. 1 regarding the lack of after-school programs for middle school students in Howard County. This problem knows no geographic boundaries since state and national statistics about this age group indicate that left unsupervised they are apt to be drawn into juvenile crime, drug experimentation and other anti-social behavior.

Although our organization has provided before- and after-school care at elementary school sites for 14 years, it is only in the past two years that we have operated sites at two middle schools in Baltimore County. We were invited to offer care because the parents and school staff felt there was a great need for these young people to spend the hours after school engaged in productive activities.

I was surprised to read that one of the programs offering care in Howard County charged a $130 weekly fee. For many working families, this expense would be prohibitive. Because we are a non-profit company offering care on the school site, we only need to charge $26 a week for care until 6 p.m., including a snack. As the article points out, many middle schoolers resent going to after-school programs that they consider to be baby-sitting. It is truly a challenge to provide a program for these "teen-agers" who can behave like children one minute and miniature adults the next. The secret to engaging their attention is offering a wide variety of age-appropriate activities and allowing them to choose among them. After eating afternoon snack together, some choose to do homework, others prefer doing art projects, playing board games, talking with their friends or working off excess energy playing sports.

Parents will not need to convince middle schoolers to attend if the program captures their attention and is considered a "cool" place to be. I would encourage parents and school staffs to work together to provide an engaging, nurturing after-school environment which will help these young people avoid the many temptations to which they might otherwise be drawn.

Jeanne Page

Towson

The writer is executive director of The Open Door of Baltimore, Inc.

Bon Secours' elite nursing corps

I appreciated the Dec. 15 article in The Sun in Howard on the role of the Bon Secours sisters. Recognition of their ministry to the sick in the United States and particularly here in Baltimore is well-deserved.

I have the privilege of belonging to what I consider an elite group of about 500 nurses, who graduated from the Bon Secours School of Nursing. The school opened to lay students (non-sisters) in 1955 and closed in 1970. My three years of training are the most memorable of my life.

The sisters started me on a journey of compassionate caring as a bedside nurse to my current position in health care administration. My ability to succeed is directly attributable to the confidence and nurturing of the Bon Secours sisters. They believed in me when sometimes I did not believe in myself.

I remember to this day the first time I had to administer an injection. My instructor was a Bon Secours sister who was extremely compassionate, but she had an almost overwhelming presence.

The patient was dying with cancer and dependent on me for pain medication. Due to the toughness of his skin and probably my nervousness, it took me three times to penetrate the skin.

He looked up at me and said "that was the best needle I have ever had." My instructor never blinked throughout the ordeal, but offered comfort by assuring me each time it would become easier.

It is sad that the numbers of sisters is so small, a sign of the times. However, their spirit will live on for many years to come through the lives of the people they have touched, such as me. For that I am grateful.

Mary Ellen Stepowany

Columbia

The new sports math

Is it any wonder that America's high school students are not leading the industrial world in math skills, or understand, let alone appreciate, the consequences of improper use of plastic money?

Recently, the Orioles reported a yearly loss of some $6 million. However, just the other day, team owner Peter Angelos paid more than $8 million for just one aged pitcher. In the old days, we would have figured minus-$6 million plus minus-$8 million meant that the Orioles are looking at losing $14 million next year. Yet with the new sports math, we must figure it equals plus-$2 million because Mr. Angelos rarely does anything unless he can make a million or two.

Bill McCarthy

Columbia

Happy 5,999th Birthday, Universe

If you were caught unprepared for the 6,000th birthday of the universe, determined by a 17th-century theologian to have been created on Oct. 23, 4004 B.C., (The Sun, Oct. 23), relax. We all still have another year to prepare.

Because there was no 0, to figure the passage of time from a year B.C. to a year A.D. you add the years together and then subtract one from the total. For example, only three years passed from Oct. 23, 2 B.C. to October 23, 2 A.D., not four.

So Happy Birthday, Universe, but let's not make you older than you already are.

David Grahek

Columbia

A tribute to Ecker: Name the intersection for him

In considering our Howard County executive, Charles I. Ecker, I have come to the opinion that he is a fine man and ought to be honored in some permanent way for the work he has done to keep Howard County the place it is in the face of all the growth and development that must come with maintaining a thriving economy in modern times.

On the few occasions that I have had a chance to meet him, I always found Mr. Ecker, or Chuck as those closer in call him, to be a modest, self-effacing man, not given to carrying airs about himself and the significant role he plays in the lives of tens of thousands of people.

No doubt he makes a good neighbor where he lives, keeps his grass mowed, his leaves picked up and cheerfully waves to passers-by who might be inclined to honk. Additionally, despite his place at the head of the Republican Party in Howard County, I have never felt that his rule was particularly partisan and always had what he perceived to be the best interests of the whole county at heart.

I suggest that we recognize his tenure by naming the meeting point of Route 175 and Snowden River Parkway in Columbia the "Dr. Charles I. Ecker Intersection," in view of the fact that many man-hours of discussion by state and county officials and a tireless effort by the adjacent communities has not budged his office to move forward in building a meaningful solution for the worsening traffic problems there.

Further, signage listing his accomplishments in office should be spread out on the approaches, Burma-Shave style, so that motorists backed up in traffic can read of his deeds during the several light cycles required to get from one side of the street to the other. Undesirable sign pollution can be overcome by planting a long continuous hedge on the median with the signs neatly set into it at drivers' eye level. A secondary advantage of the hedge would be to generate some oxygen to offset the carbon monoxide pollutants spewing from the idling cars.

This apparently would be a permanent monument, as the currently available funds to improve this intersection will likely be drawn off for other projects, and otherwise diminished by inflation, while we wait several years to see what effect Route 100 will have on the number of cars traveling through the area to visit the new "category killer" shopping centers, the multi-screen cinema and the acres of new homes under construction nearby.

Howard County policy is to not name things after people living or dead, unlike the custom in most larger cities where the names of politicians and war heroes are engraved in plaques all over town. However, an exception should be made for the obvious reason that so many of Mr. Ecker's supporters will be using the crossway to get to and from the unique massing of shopping, dining and entertainment opportunities that do not exist in other parts of the county. It would be nice if they were reminded of who gave them the chance to sit for a few extra minutes and contemplate the great irony of the convenience of motor car travel and the inability to get where they are going at a pace they may have become accustomed to elsewhere.

John J. Snyder

Columbia

Pub Date: 12/29/96

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