Sorority center keeps Randallstown youths learning after school; Deltas plan to expand program to offer help to more children


Eight years ago, the sisters of Delta Sigma Theta linked up with the residents of low-income apartment complexes along Liberty Road in Randallstown.

Since then, the sorority's Baltimore County Alumnae Chapter has been working aggressively along the Liberty Road corridor with young, underprivileged residents of the area's troubled apartment buildings.

With a series of state and county grants, the women have shepherded a successful after-school program at the 589-unit Villages of Huntington apartments that today has more than 50 pupils enrolled.

The sorority is poised to expand its center from two to four apartments -- donated rent-free by Huntington management -- to offer services to more children.

"Many of these are latchkey kids," said Robin Jacobs, president of the Delta chapter. "Being here gives the kids a positive place. Their grades have increased, and the kids are staying in school. It gives them role models, and a lot of times, they just need a hug."

It's a program that wins praise from local leaders, including County Councilman Kevin Kamenetz, a Democrat who represents Randallstown.

"This is a good example of community volunteerism at its best," said Kamenetz. "They are socially minded, professional people who recognize the value of giving back to those less fortunate."

After-school programs often include weekend and summer activities and are part of a trend among public and private groups aimed at improving school performance and reducing dropout rates, teen-age pregnancy and other problems affecting young people.

In the city last month, billionaire philanthropist George Soros pledged $6.25 million for improved after-school programs for Baltimore children if the money is matched by $12 million over the next three years.

The Delta Community Outreach Center, not included in the Soros pledge, opens daily at 3: 30 p.m. when the first middle school pupils arrive.

Within 30 minutes, the elementary pupils join them, and the center is buzzing with news of the day and homework assignments. Six computers in another room offer Internet access and educational games for further study.

The Deltas, known for their red and white outfits and enthusiasm for community service, opened the center in 1991.

With public grants that total nearly $40,000, the Deltas have hired a staff of three and offer adult education in addition to workshops on drug abuse and AIDS awareness.

"Here, the children are nurtured and able to go somewhere and have someone affirm them," said Tanya Wade, director. "I have to beg them to leave when it's time to go home."

And the results are positive.

"It's helped me get my grades up -- I come straight here and do my homework. If I went home, I would not," said Shauntel Anderson, 11, a sixth-grader at Old Court Middle School.

The sorority, which has 900 chapters, has been involved in public service since it was founded in 1913.

Crime and drugs have been problems at Randallstown's low-income developments for years, at times sparking drastic action from county officials. This month, county officials razed Savoy East Apartments -- a development with a troubled history adjacent to Huntington.

As she arrived at the Delta's after-school center one day this week, Shannon Ham-Alston unloaded her book bag and prepared to attack a load of sixth-grade homework. "I like it that they help me with my homework," said Shannon , 11, whose mother is at work when she arrives at home each day from Old Court Middle. "You can talk to people here about your problems. At home, I just watch television and not do anything. At the center, the first thing we do is homework."

Pub Date: 1/22/99

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