Cynthia Fields, a senior at Ballou High School, gave her tutor, Martha Harris, a combination punch and hug.
"We've been together for about four years," said Fields proudly, as she talked about her plans to apply for college next year. "Martha has tutored me with school subjects, like algebra, and she's also been around to give me some confidence.
"my grade average is above 2.5, and before I was just getting by."
Fields and Harris, who is an assistant to the corporate counsel at Ringling Brothers Circus, are among the 80 participants of the Community Club, a program at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church designed to help junior and senior high students stay in school. The program, which began in 1962, matches students with volunteer tutors for weekly study sessions.
After working for an hour on troublesome homework assignments, the students can play basketball or attend crafts and cooking classes. In addition, the church provides money for five college and 15 high school "stay-in-school" scholarships.
"The recreational goodies work as incentives," said Dave Brown, who works at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and volunteers as a co-director of the program."To participate in them, the kids have to go to study hall sessions. And to get money, they have to do well in school."
The scholarships range from $20 a month for a high school freshman to $1,200 a year for a college student.
At an annual awards banquet last week, the students, their parents and their tutors gathered to salute graduates and scholarship winners.
Many students and tutors have worked together several years, and the teasing throughout the evening made it obvious that solid friendships have formed.
"I could tell you how great William is," said tutor Ron Skarka to the 125 guests, as he introduced William Barcoum, a senior at Coolidge High who will attend Virginia State College in September. "But most of you know him, and I'm sure he's already told you so himself."
About half of the tutors belong to the church. "It's hard to find enough tutors," said Virginia Cochran, a retired D.C. public schools counselor who serves as the other co-director. "We insist on having a tutor monitor two students at the absolute maximum, and this limits the size of the program. We don't recruit students, we rely on word-of-mouth."
"My grandmother found out about this place," said Andre Patterson, a tall ninth-grader. "At first, I wasn't crazy about the idea. But I'll keep my grades up because I want to play basketball."
Community Club junior high graduates are Dana Bailey (graduating from Rabaut), Daneen Bailey (Rabaut), Jeakevin Gudger (Brown), Donald Lynch (Francis), Andre Patterson (Hart), Kathy Reed (Francis) and Shirley Shephard (Francis).
The seniors are Venus Baucom (graduating from Ballou), William Baucom (Coolidge), Cynthia Fields (Ballou), Cynthia Shelton (Dunbar), Bridget Thomas (Caradozo) and Doris Williams (Dunbar).
Stay-in-school scholarships, awarded to those with a 2.5 average or better over the year, went to Daneen Bailey, Venus Baucom, Franklin Blakeney (Cardozo Senior High), La Juan Duncan, Canthia Fields, Charles Garrison (Dunbar Senior), Debbie Green (Francis Junior), Donna Kelly (Cardozo), Kathy Reed, Ralph Shelton (Dunbar), James Shephard (Bell Career Development Centre), Shirley Shephard, Renee Thomas (Cardozo), Katrina Watts and Doris Williams (Dunbar) CAPTION: Picture, Andre Patterson, center, a graduate of Hart Junior High School, his tutor Cornelia Ernst and his grandfather Frank Robinson. By Craig Herndon - The Washington Post