Sensitivity Training for Young Marines

Four months after a group of black Washington area youths was subjected to racially tinged vandalism during a Young Marines summer camp in North Carolina, the organization has implemented sensitivity training to ensure that there will be no repetition.

Returning to their barracks at Camp Lejeune one evening in July, the youths from the Nation's Capital Young Marines found their belongings trashed, objects stolen and a racial epithet written on one youth's locker. Other youths participating in the camp were suspected of being responsible, and adult supervisors were criticized for not doing more to prevent and respond to the vandalism.

Young Marines is a youth program supported by the Marine Corps that features drug prevention classes and community service. When the organization held a training session for adult volunteers at Andrews Air Force Base this month, counselors from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission were on hand to coach the volunteers on how to handle racial issues.

"It has become part of our administrative process," said Michael Kessler, executive director for the Young Marines.

An investigation conducted by Camp Lejeune found no one at the base culpable in the incident and said it took place in an atmosphere of widespread pranks not related to race during the encampment. The report recommended that youth organizations using the military facility be required to provide more stringent supervision, a Marine spokesman said.

The identity of the youth or youths who wrote the slur has never been established. "I'm not interested in who wrote it," said Kessler. "I'm interested in letting the kids know this is not tolerated."

But he said a Florida youth from a Young Marines Palm Beach chapter who was suspected of involvement has been expelled from the organization for a variety of infractions.

Anthony Matthews, a 13-year-old Temple Hills youth who was one of the victims of the vandalism, remains in the Young Marines organization.

"He's doing all right," said his father, Don Matthews. "Things like that bother young kids for a while, but he's walking around now with his chest out."

--Steve Vogel

United Planning Organization Finds Home

Five years after a fire destroyed its social services center in Anacostia, the United Planning Organization has finally found a permanent new home.

The nonprofit organization was offering job training and placement, high school equivalency diplomas and services to pregnant women and their babies before fire destroyed the building in Southeast Washington.

For a few weeks, the organization offered some limited services from the street corner, then found temporary space to rent. Since then, it has packed up and moved several times as owners sold the building the organization was renting or leased the space for more money than it could pay.

But the organization is now about to move into a building it bought and renovated to create a modern, 7,000-square-foot social services center. The center, at 1649 Good Hope Rd., is a few blocks from the original site and big enough to accommodate expanded services. The grand opening is scheduled for Dec. 3.

--Cindy Loose