In 1988 UrbanPromise launched our first official summer camp in an old Baptist church in the city of Camden. A spin-off of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education (EAPE), UrbanPromise was directly inspired by EAPE founder Dr. Tony Campolo, renowned speaker, author, and sociologist known for his call for Christians to seek justice for the poor and liberation for the oppressed. In 1993, because of rapid programmatic growth and a need for a more localized board of directors, UrbanPromise Ministries was established as a 501(c)3, faith-based, New Jersey nonprofit. Dr. Bruce Main, our organization’s first full-time employee, was hired as the founding director.
With an initial budget of just $12,000 and a nearly all-volunteer staff, UrbanPromise now operates from a budget of $3.6 million and employs more than 55 full-time employees. We are also the largest private employer of teens in the city of Camden with close to 100 young adults on payroll each year.
We seek to fulfill our mission--to equip children and young adults with the skills necessary for academic achievement, life management, spiritual growth, and leadership--through several after-school and summer camps, two schools, job training, experiential learning, and a host of other programs that challenge youth to develop and realize their potential. Unique to our vision is a commitment to involving local teens—known as StreetLeaders—in the tutoring, mentoring, and coaching of younger children in the community. By involving teens in the leadership process, UrbanPromise is creating a new generation of young, visionary leaders who embody a commitment to change their own community.
Over our twenty-five year history, this relational approach has yielded tremendous success: On average, 100% of high school students graduate and around 93% go on to college. Of UrbanPromise alumni, nearly 85% have graduated from an institution of higher education. Many return to the organization as employees or volunteers, or to enroll their children in UrbanPromise activities. Our programs have inspired replications around the country and across the globe. UrbanPromise sites now exist in Wilmington, DE; Trenton, NJ; Miami, FL; Vancouver, BC; Toronto, ON; Copán, Honduras; and several areas of Malawi.
As we celebrate our 25th anniversary in the city of Camden, we plan to expand our current programming and launch the following new initiatives:
• The UrbanPromise Wellness Center and improved health and nutrition services,
including a cafeteria and food co-op in East Camden
• After-school programs and teen job opportunities in more Camden neighborhoods
• The Bruce Main Endowment and sliding scale tuition at our schools
• Additional college scholarships for our high school graduates
We hope that each of these initiatives helps us spread our message of hope, love, and justice for those we serve on an even greater scale and ultimately inspires more individuals to join the UrbanPromise family.