At-risk kids recognized for staying in school

May 10, 1999

Maryland's TomorrowBy KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

Krista Bridendolph said she had given up on school and on herself last year.

Feeling alone in dealing with personal problems and knowing her grades were too low to for her to pass to 10th grade, the 16-year-old said she didn't see much point in going to school, and so she didn't.

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During the 1997-98 school year, Bridendolph missed 87 days at North Hagerstown High School.

Things have changed a lot for her since then. Bridendolph joined the Maryland's Tomorrow program and has improved her grades, self-esteem and school attendance, missing only seven days in the current school year.

Bridendolph and students from North Hagerstown and South Hagerstown high schools participating in the Maryland's Tomorrow program were honored Monday at the Technical High School in Hagerstown.


The annual awards ceremony highlights the achievements of students in the state dropout prevention program, according to Sandy Fales, program specialist.

"They're a good bunch of kids that have overcome obstacles. Now they are riding high," said Fales.

The program invites eighth-graders with behavior typical of potential high school dropouts - poor grades and low attendance - to participate.

Participants begin the program in ninth grade and continue through graduation. Maryland's Tomorrow offers academic assistance, individual attention, special presentations on goal setting and teen issues, field trips to local businesses and incentives for achievement, said Fales.

Students wishing to further their education may be offered internships and financial assistance.

More than 100 students from both schools take part in the program, which has been offered for seven years in Washington County.

During Monday night's ceremony, Bridendolph was presented with a special award for determination and a gift certificate from Sam's Club/Wal-Mart.

"Before, I felt depressed and didn't want to go to school. Now I feel I have someone there who cares about me and helps me succeed," said Bridendolph.

She said the school's case manager, Joy Rowe, was considerate when she was troubled.

With Rowe's help, Bridendolph said she has been able to achieve B's and C's in most of her classes.

"I brought them up gradually and worked hard," she said.

Her grades improved so much that she may now be able to graduate with her original class despite failing ninth grade initially, said Bridendolph.

"I never thought it would be possible," she said.

For Jamie Beck, 15, a sophomore at South Hagerstown High School, being part of the Maryland's Tomorrow program was a way to set goals.

"It helped me focus on what I needed to do and the classes I need to take to become a cosmetologist," she said.

She said she appreciated the emotional support she received from the program's case managers.

"They helped me cope with problems and sympathized," she said.

Just 14-years-old, Terry Rudisill had been through four Washington County schools in less than three years, before participating in Maryland's Tomorrow.

Rudisill said he was experiencing personal problems and was acting out in school.

Spending a lot of time in the principal's office didn't help his grades or his self-esteem, he said.

"I didn't like school and didn't get along with my teachers too well," he said.

With the help of case manager Patty Felix, the South Hagerstown High School freshman said he's had an attitude adjustment.

"When I first heard of the program I thought it was for slow kids but then I learned what it is really about. It helps you get through your school years and succeed in life," he said.

While Rudisill admits he is still no angel and his grades could be better, his outlook is positive.

"I'm not in as much trouble as I used to be. And now I know I have to accept responsibility for what I do and not lay blame on others," he said.

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