With constant stories of low test scores and high dropout rates, national statistics on black educational achievement paint a bleak picture for many.

But a new program sponsored by the National Urban League and celebrated in an inner-city Washington church Saturday seeks to make good grades and voluntarism the norm among black youngsters."We need to create peer groups for our young people where achievement matters and achievement is cool," said Hugh Price, Urban League president, as he inducted 25 Washington-area youth into the inaugural class of the Thurgood Marshall Achievers Society.

More than 2,000 youths, ranging in age from 5 to 17, were admitted to the society in 32 cities nationwide Saturday.