Thursday, Dec. 27, 2007

Helping youth lead fuller lives

Couple organizes service projects, group discussions and field trips for young people in Springhill Lake

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Bryan Haynes⁄The Gazette
Laurel resident Brian Butler seen at the Greenbelt Community Center. He and wife, Camille, run mentoring programs for Greenbelt youth. Brain Butler says he’s like an ‘‘older brother or cool uncle” to many youngsters.
Youth who live in Springhill Lake in Greenbelt say they are grateful for the free mentoring programs offered by husband-and-wife team Brian and Camille Butler.

Jarrell Jefferson, 14, of Springhill Lake in Greenbelt said the programs, which include community projects and field trips, have helped to broaden his horizons.

‘‘I do look up to [Mr. Butler] as an older role model because he’s always trying to [help us] become better people. He’s always encouraging us,” Jefferson said.

Greenbelt resident Patricia Clark, 14, said youth in Springhill Lake could use more people like Brian.

‘‘Springhill Lake is a very big area. He’s limited in how many people he can help,” Clark said.

Camille, 30, and Brian, 32, who lived in Springhill Lake Apartments in 1999, said they created the mentoring programs to enrich, educate and instill respect in young peoples’ lives through field trips, community service projects and group discussions. Brian said the lack of black role models in the youth’s homes prompted him to start a mentoring program.

‘‘I knew just for that simple fact that I was an example. Positive or negative, it is really important for youth to see a black male in a positive light,” Brian said.

In 2000, Brian created B.U.I.L.D.I.N.G — Boys United In Learning, Developing and Igniting the Next Generation. Camille joined in 2004 with L.I.V.E.S. —Ladies Instilling Values, Excellence and Success — which caters to young women in the Springhill Lake community.

Butler said he and his wife would often take about 15 kids in the city van to museums or sporting events and do community projects. When they go on trips using the metro, the Butlers would pay for the tickets.

He said the program is held year-round for youth from 10 to 18 years old, with meetings Wednesday and Friday at the Springhill Lake Community Center.

Another of Camille’s efforts has been the launch of the Rasmi program, which began in December 2006 at the Springhill Lake Recreation Center and continued this year. Rasmi, which means ‘‘formal” in Swahili, is a preparation tool for high school students. The program covers issues such as career goals, relationships and social interaction with peers. Camille said the Rasmi differs from LIVES, because it focuses on teenagers and is a discussion group. The LIVES program assists youth 9 to 18 years old.

Brian said he refuses be inactive. He said he wants to continue to get Springhill Lake youth involved in activities outside of their immediate neighborhood.

‘‘I’m more like the older brother or cool uncle, and in many cases—it’s a shame—but the father figure for them because many adult males are not around,” said Brian, a Springhill Lake recreation coordinator who works for the city of Greenbelt.

Although the couple live with their four children in Laurel, they continue to return to Springhill Lake to run the youth programs.

Brian said he grew up in Lakewood, N.J., where there was much violence. His mother and step-father died while he was still a teenager.

‘‘I’m beginning to understand I had to go through that to reach the generation of today, who are dealing with even worse problems now,” Brian said. ‘‘It’s not that I have sympathy but I understand their situation and I’m living proof that you can be successful.”