It was an unplanned gathering. On a crisp, clear day, a group of jobless minority youth crowded eagerly around a reporter visiting their Potomac Job Corps center where they attend vocational and academic classes.
On a break between classes, they eagerly talked of their past, their training , and their hopes for the future.
Willie Charles, 19, expelled from school in the 11th grade, says he had become tired of sitting at home doing nothing. ''I want to make something out of myself,'' he says. So he joined Job Corps, finished a course in food preparation , and is now taking one in electrical wiring.
''I'm quite sure I'll get a job,'' he says. ''I believe in myself. I believe in my goal.'' Then he repeats: ''I'm quite sure I'll get a job.''
Victoria Vaughn, also in the small crowd, says Job Corps is a ''really mature'' place. She is training to be a plasterer, she says.
Romanual Boice, 18, steps forward. ''I started thinking about a lot of things I want to have that I couldn't (have) doing nothing: my own home, a car. I want to make my mother proud. (His father passed on this year.) I'm putting my best effort into it (Job Corps).''
Earlier that day, remedial reading teacher Deborah Tate looked silently out a second-story window after her students had left. Turning to her visitor, she said: Job Corps teaches academics as well as ''self-importance and confidence. Before, they felt like failures. But once they feel they can achieve, they begin to go ahead.''
Then she explained another aspect of Job Corps's success: ''My word in here is law. They (trainees) know when I say something, I mean it.''