BOE member cares about 'all children'

June 09, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

For every child left behind in school, newly appointed Washington County Board of Education member William Princeton Young sees a potential inmate.

Young, 56, an assistant warden at the Maryland Correctional Training Center and youth therapist at the Washington County Mental Health Center, has counseled prisoners who have said they were misguided children and has comforted children who, without help, might become misguided adults.

Young, after clocking in 40 hours a week at the prison, often uses his weekends and spare time to work as a therapist to children and adolescents.


He said he has about 30 cases, children between the ages of 8 and 16, who have a range of behavioral and social problems.

Eighty percent come from single-parent homes. Ninety percent live in subsidized housing.

"A lot of these children, the system has chosen to throw away," he said. "There are values in throwaways."

As a School Board member, Young hopes to focus on those children. He wants to build cultural diversity training for teachers, who might not understand the backgrounds of children of different ethnicities. He also wants to develop programs for parents, who may be struggling to pay bills or are battling addictions, to help them become more involved in their children's education.

"We should try to understand them first and then they will understand us," he said.

But Young, who is the first black to serve on the county's School Board, doesn't want people to think his concern is only for people of his color.

"I'm concerned about children, all children, and it just so happens that I'm a minority and there are minority children in trouble," he said.

Young has a solution for the troubled: God.

An active member at Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church in Hagerstown, Young said he often invites the children he counsels to join him to worship on Sundays.

Although federal law prohibits the church from entering into the public school classroom, Young said all the life lessons he learned were in the classes taught exclusively on Sundays.

"Kids need a spiritual grounding," he said.

He said prisoners fight and take things from each other because they weren't raised to believe their actions were wrong or that their actions could hurt people's feelings.

Prisoners at the Maryland Correctional Training Center recently went from wearing their own clothes to wearing uniforms, which has decreased the number of fights there, he said.

He said before uniforms, prisoners beat each other up to take expensive boots or sneakers, which leads Young to believe uniforms would suit children in Washington County Public Schools.

"Kids tell me about how embarrassed they are about the clothes they have to wear," Young said. "I think it's a tragedy that someone would drop out of school because they weren't able to afford a $150 pair of sneakers."

He said parents' money could be better spent saving up for their children's post-secondary education.

And Young knows the value of a college education. After graduating from North Hagerstown High School, he received an associate's degree from Hagerstown Junior College. He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland, University College, with a double major in human sciences and urban planning, which led him to earn his master's degree in community counseling and gerontology from Hood College.

Young, appointed by Gov. Robert Ehrlich last month, is filling the final two years of Doris Nipps' term, which ends in 2004. Nipps was elected as a Washington County Commissioner in last year's general election.

Young will be sworn in at the School Board's June 17 meeting.

"My mother told me there's no one in this earth better than you or worse than you," he said. "We are all the same, just keep it in perspective."

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