The Primary Education Program for adolescents in Mt. Rainer is a special project for special people. People like Calvin Scott, a 15-year-old neighborhood athlete who became a hero and surrogate farther to many of the youths in the program.
Two year's ago, Scott assisted PEP director Joseph Emmerich in an urbanized 4-H youth activities program.
"I became his assistant athletic instructor," said Scott. "I loved athletics. I used to be in the 4-H program in elementary school. I took it as a fun and games situation."
A year later Scott said the director, whom he calls Mr. Joe, asked him to work with some emotionally disturbed youngsters who frequented the center.
Scott said, "I got involved with them. I was feeling their personal problems."
Also feeling their problems was Joseph Emmerich.
"I'm from the community," said Emmerich. "I personally developed this project because there were a lot of tennagers with nothing constructive to do, and the other thing was children who were behind academically and getting even further behind in the summer."
The children that Emmerich prefers to describe as unguided rather than disturbed have problems that range from boredom to severe academic or emotional handicaps, he said.
As a former communications dispatcher in the county's police department, he was aware of the kinds of trouble undirected youth could become victims of. He didn't want to see that happens to those kids, he said.
Emmerich came to 4-H as a volunteer in 1967. By 1971 he'd become a staff director. While there he began to develop a youth oriented counseling program using teenagers in big brother-tutor relationships with younger kids. The program, he said, was to serve a twofold purpose: to enhance the children socially and academically, and expose the teenagers to the teaching profession concerning troubles youth.
"It's always been in my mind to reach the child who wasn't a joiner," he explained. "They're the ones who need the activities, but you've got to find them. You've got to reach out and get them."
As the 32-year-old director reached for troubled youth, he pulled farther away from 4-H, he said. In April he severed the tie completely to pursue his goal full-time.
This summer Emmerich had a band of young counselors and volunteers operated PEP as one of the 298 projects under the Summer Program for Economically Disadvantaged Youth (SPEDY).
SPEDY is a youth oriented, career development program run by the Prince George's County personnel office. The program, funded by the Labor Department, is designed to expose youth to a variety of careers while making employers aware of them as a work resource.
In SPEDY, Emmerich worked as a job coach directing workers in the PEP program. The job coach concept, innovated by Hilda Pemberton, the county's employee relations director, was designed to supervise and motivate youths in their career pursuits.
"The SPEDY people were behind us 100 per cent," said Emmerich. Senior job coaches closely monitored the PEP program making sure workers and kids were receiving maximum benefits.
During the summer seve paid and four volunteer youth counselors worked with 36 children, aged 5-8, from North Brentwood. Chillum Heights, Mt. Rainer, Colmar Manor, Hyattsville and Langley Park. One of these counselors was Calvin Scott.
"I have lived in this area practically all my life, but I've never had the sort of problems these kids have," said Scott relating some of his case histories. "But I understand them very well."
Scott related the story of a woman and her seven-year-old son. The boy had missed a year of school, he said, because of an ear operation and an unstable home life. He was unable to read or write.
"They were found living in an old railroad car by Mr. Joe. They'd been evicted because they couldn't pay the rent."
Scott said Emmerich found a home for the family and provided them with food. The boy was placed in PEP.
"We felt he was a good student. His mother thought he was stupid because he liked to make robots and airplanes. But he loved education.
"In his mind he was very bright. He was normal. He could work. But he just needed some loving."
The center provided that loving and now the child is reading at grade level and adjusting academically.
But not all of the center's kids come from broken homes. Scott recalled another youth from a solid, middleclass, two-parent family. The boy had been referred to the center by his fourth grade teacher and mother as a discipline problem. As Scott worked with the youngster, he said a kinship developed between them, and the youth's behavior began to change.
"(Now) I meet his mother everyday. She said I don't know what you've done with my son, but I've seen the change.
The recently was simple, said Scott. "I showed him I cared for him." He also refused to let the temperamental youngster have his way.
Today Scott, a high school junior, said he is seriously considering a career in counseling or special education.
"Some people won't take the time to get their hands dirty to work with disadvantaged children," he said sardonically. "But I enjoy this work. I feel I want to help them."