Harold Gladman Ross was a hard-edged teenager who didn't listen to anybody and hated white people.
"I don't know why I hated them," he said. "As a teenage black, I just didn't get a lot of chances to meet other races."
At 14, he joined a study group at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, where about 150 students and 150 adults pair up for an hour every Thursday night to work together on homework assignments.
Ross was matched with Stig Hammond, a 25-year-old program analyst for the D.C. Department of Finance and Revenue. Hammond, who is white, had just moved to the District from Indiana.
On Tuesday nights, many of the boys in the group and their adult tutors played basketball at a nearby church gymnasium.
Ross was one of the top scorers. But Hammond, who had grown up in Indiana without learning how to play basketball, looked awkward on the court and shot poorly.
So they made a deal:
Even though they were on rival teams, Ross would instruct Hammond on how to shoot a basketball. In exchange, Hammond would teach American history and geometry to Ross.
"It took patience to teach him how to shoot," Ross said. "I know it took a lot of patience to teach me geometry."
They became friends. Hammond learned to play basketball and Ross's grades improved.
Ross, now 20, works at a bank handling new accounts. He still goes every Thursday night to the crowded study hall. But now he's a tutor, helping a struggling fourth-grader.
"I love tutoring her," he said. "I appreciate what they gave me so much, I feel I have to give it back."
The study hall at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church is not an experimental program begging for publicity and volunteers. It's an established success that was founded 30 years ago.
Today, the huge study hall on the top floor of the church is filled to capacity every Thursday night.
Right from the start, the program was linked with basketball, said co-director David Brown.
He said gang members used to hang out in the church's community room, playing basketball and shooting pool.
Brown said he told the boys that they would have to attend some new evening classes the church was offering if they wanted to continue playing basketball. Most of them attended, he said.
Discipline was a problem, however, so "out of desperation," organizers decided to match an adult with every teenager. It worked.
The one hour of tutoring the teenagers receive each week does not help them much in school, Brown said.
That hour, he explained, is for the adults and students to get to know each other and begin a relationship that goes beyond the study hall.
When students are in a relationship with someone who values education, they are more likely to stay in school, he said.
"Our concept is that everything works around personal relationships," he said.
In addition to receiving attention from adults, students who keep their grade-point averages above 2.5 receive grants of between $55 and $70 a month. About $45,000 in scholarships are given to the students every year, Brown said.
The church provides some of the money. The rest comes from grants and donations.
Most of the tutors are young professionals who don't belong to the church, and more women volunteer than men, Brown said. Seventy percent of them are white.
"It's tough for a child in the inner city to be a star other than by selling drugs or becoming a super jock," Brown said. "What we are trying to say is that it's all right to be smart."
Michael Colbert, 38, said he joined the study hall as a student in 1965. He credits it with helping him stay in high school and encouraging him to go on to college. Today he works as a professional drug counselor and volunteers every Thursday as a tutor.
Colbert also still plays basketball on Tuesday nights, just as he did 26 years ago. "It helps me develop a bond with the youngsters," he said. "It's easier for them to take your advice when they're comfortable with you."
Harold Gladman Ross said he would like to see more study halls started in other areas of the city. "The way things are -- young people dying for no reason at all -- we've got to get them off the street," he said.