Students to urge lawmakers not to cut programs for poor


Four buses loaded with high school students will be heading today to Annapolis, where the students will lobby state legislators to help the homeless and poor.

About 150 students from public and private schools in the city and Baltimore County will hold a rally before meeting with more than a dozen state delegates and senators. The students will ask the legislators to maintain funding for programs such as housing, health care and education for the poor, despite budget constraints.

The students, members of the nonprofit Students Sharing Coalition Inc., which provides service-learning experience to youths from diverse backgrounds, are taking part in Lobby Day 2002 with representatives from the Center for Poverty Solutions, Health Care for the Homeless and Advocates for Children and Youth.

"We don't want the [social service] programs to be cut," said Emily Cole, 16, a Bryn Mawr School junior who is scheduled to speak at the rally.

"We are going there to be advocates for the homeless and poor," she said. "There is a real issue with affordable housing in the city; there's just not enough to go around. We are going to tell the legislators: Don't make things any worse than they already are."

Linda F. Kohler, the coalition's founder and executive director, said the students work every weekend on community projects, including Sandtown Habitat for Humanity, Our Daily Bread, Kids' Place, Heart's Place Shelter, the Homeless Outreach Team and the Helping Up Mission.

"Most of these students have seen the poverty up close," Kohler said. "And they learn that what they do can make a difference."

For Grace Keith, 16, a junior at Roland Park Country School, it is important to show the legislators that the younger generation cares.

"We want to show them how important we think these issues [of poverty] are to the community," she said.

Susanna Ingalls, 17, a junior at Roland Park Country, thinks that the time will be well spent trying to persuade the legislators to keep the social programs intact.

"If we can help just one person, then it's worth it," Ingalls said.

The students are planning to give service kits to the delegates.. The kits will include Lifesavers candy, markers, toothpicks, and heart-shaped cookies that Cole baked with two Towson High School students, Michael Figuera and Nora Rawn.

Students from Boys' Latin, Bryn Mawr, Friends, Garrison Forest, Gilman, McDonogh, Park, Northern, Patterson, Roland Park Country, Towson and Western high schools will take part.

This is the 10th year that members of Students Sharing have lobbied in Annapolis. It is also the largest group to travel there, Kohler said.

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