Bush Taps Anti-Gang Program From Boston As the 1,000th 'Daily Point of Light'

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WASHINGTON--On the last day of December, President Bush named his 1,000th "Daily Point of Light,'' awarding the honor to Gang Peace, a three-year-old private, nonprofit gang-intervention and -prevention program in Boston.

With little fanfare, Mr. Bush has, virtually every day since November 1989, formally recognized a volunteer organization or individual for service to others by naming a Daily Point of Light.

The title, of course, refers to the metaphor used by Mr. Bush in his inauguration speech to liken community servants nationwide to "a thousand points of light.''

So it was inevitable, the White House coordinator of the program acknowledged this month, that the program or person named the 1,000th Point of Light--even though there are to be 20 more--would receive considerable attention.

The significance of the 1,000th Point of Light was not lost on Mr. Bush, said Miah Homstad, who runs the program out of the White House office of national service.

"Certainly, he wanted to make sure the group or individual was really everything that exemplified his belief in engaging private citizens in volunteer efforts,'' Ms. Homstad said.

Gang Peace, a very "hands on'' and "street based'' program, she said, uses among its 800 volunteers high school and college students to work with about 500 young members of 40 gangs to let them know "they can turn their lives around, they can finish school, gain marketable skills.''

The program came to the attention of the White House just a few weeks ago through a newspaper article, Ms. Homstad said. Like other Points of Light, Gang Peace was one of the few candidates forwarded to the President out of the 100 to 150 suggestions a week that have arrived at the White House.

Many of the Points of Light have been youth-serving organizations, Ms. Homstad said.

Out of the first 800 honorees--the number for which analysis is complete--about 250 were primarily concerned with youths and their well-being, and about 75 dealt with it as a secondary concern, she said.

Mr. Bush will continue to name Daily Points of Light through Jan. 20, his last day in office, but it is unclear whether the ritual will continue under the Clinton Administration or what will become of the White House national-service office, officials there said.

A Hands-On Program

Gang Peace, founded in a storefront by Rodney Dailey, a former drug addict and gang member, aims to turn around the lives of 12- to 22-year-olds by offering them other alternatives: a chance to earn a General Educational Development certificate or an associate's degree, receive job placement, get counseling, or join a sports league, said Robert Cromwell, the organization's assistant director.

"A lot of what we do is ask the kids what they want,'' Mr. Cromwell said. "If you have a dream, then we say we can make that dream come true.''

To try to do that, Gang Peace depends on volunteers.

It draws mentors for its clients from the black student groups at Boston's myriad colleges and sponsors an after-school tutoring group conducted by high school students from the private Milton Academy in nearby Milton, Mass.

Gang Peace, which depends on donations from the private sector for its annual $180,000 operating budget, also has its own recording studio and music classes thanks to equipment donated by Boston's Berklee School of Music, Mr. Cromwell said.

With its hands-on intervention strategies for gang violence, Gang Peace is also credited with helping to halve the gang-related homicide rate in Boston since 1990.

Gang Peace's designation as a Point of Light "was really an honor,'' Mr. Cromwell said last week.

But, he said, "I think the major thing is that let's not let the light go out.''

Vol. 13, Issue 06

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