Mentors needed for Maryland Tomorrow

July 18, 1997


Staff Writer

On $165,000 a year, four full-time and two part-time staff run a four-component program designed to turn local at-risk youths into high school graduates.

Built on a limited budget and a philosophy of community service, the program relies on working adults and college-bound high school juniors and seniors to help get the youth back on track.

"We're short 126 career mentors," said Mark Lochbaum, who runs the Maryland Tomorrow program, funded through state and federal grants.

The program takes seventh- and eighth-graders with behavior typical of future high school drop-outs - poor grades and low attendance - and invites them to participate. Of those who agree, more than two-thirds will graduate, Lochbaum said.


Participants begin the program during their summer before entering ninth grade at either North or South Hagerstown high schools. They do jobs such as landscaping, painting and janitorial-type cleaning at local schools. They also have daily math classes.

"They're a real smart bunch of students," said Priscilla Lachance, who was overseeing a half dozen students planting flowers around the Career Studies Center south of Hagerstown.

One student stood off from a landscape he helped preen, a job that required turning the soil, laying mulch and placing new flowers where weeds once ruled.

During the summer, students learn the significance of attendance because they are paid $4.75 an hour, which Lochbaum said builds in their minds a direct connection between education and work opportunities.

The program follows students throughout their high school years with tutoring, counseling and mentoring.

Upperclassmen can get college scholarships for helping those in the Tomorrow program. Lochbaum said the scholarships are an incentive for college-bound students to share their skills and enthusiasm for academics.

But Lochbaum said the program's adult mentoring component is in need of help.

With a total of 135 students at North Hagerstown and South Hagerstown high schools, and only a handful of career mentors on the roster, the program is seeking help from local businesses.

Lochbaum said anyone from journalists to construction workers are needed to work with a student, and develop a relationship that can grow into the future.

"We are looking for CEOs willing to free up staff for an hour a week to meet with students and start a relationship which can go someplace," Lochbaum said.

Lochbaum said anyone interested in participating may call him at 301-791-4171.

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