Waymon Rush recalled how he would skip school for weeks and weeks at a time after some of the boys repeatedly called him names and touched him because of his effeminate manner.
"I didn't know what to do . . . . I was scared," said the tall, slim 17-year-old. "So I would sit in my room all day and just wait for 3 o'clock to come around."
But two years ago Rush met a special friend at Terrell Junior High School who helped him cope with the teasing and his own personality. The friend also helped organize an assembly of boys who were warned not to touch or tease Rush.
That friend was a counselor with Cities in Schools (CIS), a private nonprofit program that brings together public and private groups to offer a wide variety of services to students and their families including tutoring, drug and sex education and recreational activities.
"The problems didn't just vanish," said Rush, who repeated the eighth grade because of his truancy, "But things have changed, and now, if I have a problem, I go right to my counselor and we talk it out."
More than half of Terrell's students are involved in the program. William Fuller, the son of Catherine Fuller, who was slain in an alley last year near Eighth and H streets N E, attends Terrell and is involved in the CIS program. CIS has arranged professional counseling, provided food, clothes and money for William and his family, and taken William on weekend trips.
Terrell, at First and Pierce streets NW, draws most of its 300 students from the fraying, subsidized housing projects in the school's neighborhood.
Theirs is a neighborhood of few fathers, lots of drugs and little hope.
"We chose to start in Terrell because we wanted the worst school with the worst kids," said Erroll Arthur, program director of the Terrell CIS program. "We only have 160 kids on our roster but the entire school population needs us."
Assistant Principal Addison Webster said, "Over 90 percent of our students come from that [Sursum Corda Court] area. Our kids have to pass by drugs every day on their way to school and on their way home. They can't avoid it," he said.
Phillip Frazier, 13, a CIS student, said, "We have this big open area" n Sursum Corda Courts, "on one side we have loveboat [PCP] and the other side we have cocaine."
For seven years CIS has been steering students away from drug pushers. Three CIS counselors have offices in the basement of Terrell. Students stop by to talk about a new date, their anger or problems and to get encouragement.
On weekends there are trips for groups of students, usually organized by Nora Bell, one of the counselors. Sometimes Bell just invites the students to her Alexandria home to "give them a break from their own horrible back yards."
"Alexandria is like a different world from across the street," said Bell, referring to Sursum Corda, a project of 199 townhouses. "It shows them that black people don't have to live like that," she said.
"We go to Virginia or Baltimore with CIS to just have fun," said LaTonya Bridges, 14. "It's just so nice when we can be somewhere, anywhere other than around here," Frazier added.
Bell, described by many of the youngsters as "like a mother to us," also takes students to restaurants, swimming pools, and Springfield mall, which is located in the Virginia suburbs.
Last week, she introduced them to ice skating.
"We were the only blacks on the ice," said Bell "some of those folks stared, but I told the kids to expect that," she said. "And they behaved so nicely."
CIS came to the city seven years ago and operates on a $120,000 budget from city government and private donations.
CIS operates in 11 other cities. CIS also operates an adolescent health center at 1325 W St. N W.