Imagining a better day

June 24, 2003

Brian Robinson has a dream for the Jonathan Street neighborhood that includes a mentoring program for young people and restoration of some of the historic properties there. Perhaps the Hagerstown city government can find a way to help him make these dreams a reality.

At the African-American Heritage Program this past Saturday at Wheaton Park, Robinson talked about what he hopes to accomplish.

With the help of the children, he said, the neighborhood that's the spiritual heart of Hagerstown's black community can be preserved and improved.

Robinson has already begun the effort. In August of 2001, he began Each One Teach One, a program to match mentors with young people which also meets periodically for group activities.

Robinson, whose grandfather once owned more than 35 properties in the area, said he hopes to purchase and restore properties there himself.


In this effort, he might benefit from the experiences of the Rev. Philip Hundley. In 1994, when an apprentice trades program run by Community Solidarity and Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc., lost its federal and state funding, Hundley proposed that it be revived through the city's Community Development Block Grant program.

Hundley's idea was that minority youths would learn about the building trades by working to improve properties in their own neighborhoods.

Not only would they gain skills, but they would develop pride in the neighborhoods they'd helped to rehabilitate as well. City officials didn't see it that way, however, and rejected the proposal.

But there's a new administration now and a new emphasis on improving living conditions in the city.

If city officials care about giving young people jobs skills and improving neighborhoods, they should take a look at reviving this apprenticeship training proposal.

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