Summer program offers more than jobs to students who hope to go to college Mentor program guides them through preparation


Trisha Richardson wants to be the first person in her family to graduate from college -- and then to buy a yacht and a house on the water.

The first step toward those lofty goals is a college education, the 17-year-old Annapolis High School senior believes. So this summer, she and a dozen others with similar goals are participating in the Mentor program, which teaches them how to find the right college and how to apply for admission and financial aid.

The mentoring effort is a new part of the larger Summer Jobs for Youth Program, a federal- and county-funded program for 480 high school students. The Business and Workforce Development Center of Anne Arundel County runs both seven-week programs.

The participants are juniors, seniors and recent graduates with C averages or better. Most come from low-income families.

They work 30 hours a week Monday through Thursday, earning paychecks from such places as the Anne Arundel Medical Center and the Annapolis Housing Authority.

On Fridays, participants meet to talk about work, sharpen interviewing skills and listen to speakers discuss opportunities that college can give them.

Last Friday, six of the 12 participants attended.

"When you don't grow up everyday in a household where people have gone to college, it feels very far removed from your lifestyle," said Kirk Sykes, Mentor director.

Sykes said he grew up in Baltimore in a low-income, African-American family. He identifies with the Mentor participants. "I just want to let the kids know that I went through the whole process, and they can, too."

He directs them in looking for scholarships for which they qualify, working on personal statements required on college applications and deciphering terms such as "GPA" (grade point average) and "major." They make sense together of financial aid forms.

Sykes breaks up classroom-type monotony by taking students on tours of area campuses, including Anne Arundel Community College, Coppin State University and Towson and Howard universities.

Lillian Potter, coordinator of the Summer Jobs for Youth Program, designed the Mentor program after talking to students in her program last summer. They wanted to go to college and she thought they had potential, but they had no idea how to get into college.

"As a society, it's extremely important that we have students from low-income families going to college," she said. "There are ways of thinking and careers that they won't ever encounter unless they go."

With one week left in the program, participants are confident Mentor has helped them.

"I never thought about college much in my early years," said Devon Bennett, 16. "The program helped a lot."

Now the Arundel High student, who is working for the Department of Labor and Licensing Regulations, said that he wants to get his grades up so he'll have a better chance of getting into Morehouse College. He wants to be an engineer.

"Somewhere down the road, I want to be famous for an invention," he said.

Pub Date: 8/03/97

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