Leatha Howell pores over her mathematics lesson every evening - according to Howell, she doesn't have any choice.
"I dropped out of school in the seventh grade," said Howell, who is in her mid-30s, "and being back in school, for me, is like starting all over again. I study every night, but this math is hard, especially this division."
Howell is "starting all over" at Another Place, a federal- and District-supported program designed primarily for low-income women from the Montana Terrace Housing Development in Northeast Washington. Howell is one of about 40 women enrolled in basic skill courses (such as math and reading) as well as classes such as nutrition and exercise programs.
The program, which began earlier this year and is based at Montana Terrace, is funded with a one-year renewable grant of $28,200 from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and an almost equal amount in services from the University of the District of Columbia.
Shirley Munford, director of women's programs at UDC, designed the project. And the name, Another Place, describes Munford's goals for women in the program.
". . . Society has always relegated women to the home," she said. "I thought she needed another place to be whatever she wanted to be, undefined by society, family and children."
In addition to formal classes, talk sessions are planned where women can discuss such topics as parenting, abortion, self-assertiveness and public assistance. No degrees or diplomas are awarded, but women receive certificates showing they have completed a course. The classes, which are free, usually last about 10 or 11 weeks.
Some of the women are preparing for additional education. For instance, Monica Waddell, 19, graduated from McKinley High School and wants to attend college. "I had read about A&T College in North Carolina," she said. "It seemed like the place for me. I wanted to be a lawyer, but I didn't have any money to go to school.
"I also couldn't find a job. So I was referred to Another Place, and Mrs. (Laura) Lawson (a project coordinator) helped me apply to A&T. She is also helping me to get grants so I can go to college."
Although many students are enthusiastic, there have been some attendance problems. But "very few drop the program entirely," Lawson said. "When they feel down, we encourage them."
The idea for Another Place grew out of a similar program Munford coordinated several years ago.
That program was based on a 1970 survey of Montana. Terrace residents regarding attitudes of black women toward continuing education courses.
"(The survey) revealed that the women lacked the requirements necessary for credentials leading to a higher education," Munford said. "But they still displayed the same needs to reassess their lives as did middle-class women."
Another Place has been designed to be more flexible than that original program. "We are a continuing education resource center," Munford said, "where persons, and I say persons, because we do not exclude men, can come by, get information or take a class."
The program operates primarily in two rooms that are borrowed from the Community Center Services Division in Montana Terrace. One room is used as an office, which has an area with books and toys for the children whose mothers are attending classes. The other, larger room is used for classes.
The salaried staff consists of two project coordinators, Lawson and Sarah Deane, who also offer counseling, and three peer counselors, Gloria Gerald, Jean Patterson and Dorothy Waddell. "The peer counselors are a natural link between the community and the program," Lawson said. "They help motivate the students and acts as positive role models."
Other program workers are volunteers, including instructors. It is desired that instructors have at least a high school diploma, but it is more important that they be "strong in a particular subject," said Deane.
Another aspect of Another Place is its portability, taking courses to women throughout the city, done in response to requests by women from other communities.
Because staff members can't come up with all the resources for their clients' needs, they have turned to various organizations and institutions for assistance.
"The Women's Medical Center offered to design workshops on such concerns as menopause, abortion and assesstiveness training," said Deane.
WOW (Wider Opportunities for Women) and the National Association of Women Business Owners are also among the program's supporters.
For more information about Another Place call 576-6644.