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Prince George's residents envision the county's future

Charles Lollar, center, makes a point in the discussion at his table during Envision Prince George's, a town hall meeting in Landover. The event drew more than 1,000 residents to discuss challenges facing the county and ways to improve the quality of life over the next 20 years.
Charles Lollar, center, makes a point in the discussion at his table during Envision Prince George's, a town hall meeting in Landover. The event drew more than 1,000 residents to discuss challenges facing the county and ways to improve the quality of life over the next 20 years. (Mark Gail/the Washington Post)
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By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 21, 2010

The group at Table 63 was so hyped about their discussion that they worked right through lunch.

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"I have 30 students in my class," said a 16-year-old student who attends Parkdale High School in Riverdale.

"Thirty students?" said Charles Collar, a county businessman. "That's a college class."

Collar, who facilitated the talk at Table 63, said that he did not think "money is the reason our educational system suffers. It is about our involvement."

How to improve the county's troubled education system was a hot topic during Envision Prince George's, a six-hour town hall meeting that drew more than 1,000 people to the Sports & Learning Center in Landover on Saturday. The event was organized for residents to discuss challenges facing the county and ways to improve the quality of life over the next 20 years.

Here's a short list of what they want: less crime, smaller class sizes, more parental involvement in schools and higher-end development. Moses Vincent of Largo wants a more inclusive county: "I don't see anything in this book about immigrants. We have to make sure we include immigrants in whatever vision we have."

Vincent sat next to Howard Stone, a Mitchellville resident who was a high-ranking official during the administration of County Executive Wayne K. Curry in the mid-1990s. "There's a lot of energy in the room," said Stone, who now works for the County Council. "It's really wonderful because it has been an opportunity for a diverse, cross-section of Prince Georgians to come together and lay out what the county will look like."

Aimee Olivio of Cheverly said she sees Prince George's with an educational system two decades from now as strong as those in neighboring jurisdictions. But she said the school system needs to do a better job reaching out to parents, especially to those who "may think they are intruding" by coming into the classroom. She said her mother-in-law, who is Hispanic, said she never was involved with her children's education because she didn't think it was "her place to be involved."

"She felt that she did her job at home, and it was up to the teacher to do her job in the school," Olivio said. "She thought she would offend the teacher if she went there."

Jimi Jones of Cheverly said he sees a county that is no longer perceived as the crime capital of the region.

Jones said the county has to offer education programs and jobs to help keep juveniles from getting into trouble.

Ruthie Mundell of Brentwood came to Envision on Saturday to talk about green jobs. "I just wanted to make sure in talking about the future, we talk about green jobs," she said. "We need to promote that, and [Prince George's] is a great place to start one."

Organizers said they hope Envision's energy can be sustained.

"We've said from the beginning that this is a call to action," said Samuel J. Parker Jr., chairman of the Prince George's County Planning Board and member of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which sponsored the event. Parker said all of the suggestions made at the tables throughout the room will be compiled into a report that will be available in June. In the meantime, the park and planning commission will set up "action teams" that will work on ways to implement the plan.

"We want to get a commitment from the people to not only support the vision, but make it a reality," he said.


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