Blog: January 2011
On Friday, December 3rd, Dana Covert (StreetLeader Co-Director) and Jodina Hicks (Executive Director) joined eight StreetLeaders and StreetLeader Alumni as they traveled to Eastern University for admissions interviews. During the afternoon the StreetLeaders each had interviews with admissions representatives, went on a brief tour, and enjoyed a complimentary dinner in the dining hall. They also met with several of the staff at Eastern to discuss scholarship opportunities that are available to young people involved with UrbanPromise. It was an excellent opportunity for our StreetLeaders and UrbanPromise Academy students to exercise interview skills in a friendly and encouraging environment. All of the staff at Eastern were impressed with the StreetLeaders!
Our StreetLeader Program is a natural outgrowth of the Afterschool Programs. Each year, approximately 80 Camden-area teens are hired as counselors, teachers, coaches, and role models for children in our AfterSchool Programs and Summer Camps. Many of the StreetLeaders are graduates of our AfterSchools Programs and are passionate about having this opportunity to help raise up the next generation and to give back to their community. In fact, the heart of the StreetLeader Program is challenging our teenagers to use their influence to make positive changes in their lives and in the community of Camden through job training, education, and Christian development.
UrbanPromise StreetLeaders joined Dana Covert, StreetLeader Education Coordinator, and members from Connect Church in Cherry Hill, NJ as they delivered hot meals to the homeless community living in and around Love Park in Philadelphia. The teens spent approximately two hours serving hot turkey meals with all the trimmings. The UrbanPromise crew also did some pie duty by serving up a choice of pumpkin and apple pie with a smile. Everyone really enjoyed sharing God’s love that day!
On Friday, January 14th, the 8th grade class, along with Mrs. Denise Baker, Principal and Mrs. Nicole Morgan, 8th Grade Advisor/Lead Teacher traveled to Times Square in NYC to attend a taping of Good Morning America. They were invited to be apart of the audience as special VIP guests. The night before was spent at CFS playing games and staying up all night! They left for Times Square at 4:00 am.
During the filming of the show, students displayed CFS/Urban Promise Ministries Banners. After the filming of Good Morning America, students and staff were treated to a tour of the studio. They saw where celebrities and guest speakers are interviewed and learned how a TV show was broadcast. The students enjoyed staying the night and meeting students from other schools who traveled on the bus with them. They had a great time and are thankful for the experience and opportunity to travel to New York City!
"Our family first learned about the work UrbanPromise is doing on the 20/20 Diana Sawyer Special about children in Camden aired in January 2007. Since that night we have supported UrbanPromise in prayer and financially.
We believe in education and hard work! We love that UrbanPromise promotes both in a Christian context.
We have had the pleasure of getting to know the youth we sponsor through the Partner Program at UrbanPromise Academy.
The kids and staff are an amazing group of people. Wonderful people helping wonderful people!
We know the work that's being done at UrbanPromise is helping the community of Camden. That’s why we have stuck with UrbanPromise all the way from Chicago!"
Charles & Jackie Tillman
Charles Tillman leads the Bears with 22 interceptions since being drafted by Chicago in 2003, including 18 over the previous five seasons. His 21 forced fumbles since 2003 are the most in the NFL amongst cornerbacks. In 2007, Tillman was nominated as finalist for the prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which recognizes players who have performed extensive charity work. Tillman and the Bears will take on Greenbay this Sunday to earn a spot in the 2011 Super Bowl.
He and his wife, Jackie, have three children. Tillman's Cornerstone Foundation mission is to help improve the lives of critically and chronically ill children throughout Chicago.
Congratulations to UrbanPromise Academy Senior Shanice Maynard who scored her 1,000th career point midway through the fourth quarter, allowing host Woodrow Wilson to start the party early in an 80-31 rout of crosstown rival Camden on Saturday in Olympic Conference girls' basketball.
Maynard finished with 32 points and a dozen rebounds, while Chanelle Perry tossed in 20 points and Kamari Talley scored 14.
For a Friday evening in January, the community hall of Princeton’s Trinity Church felt like Easter Sunday.
Nearly 170 visitors gathered at the Episcopal parish for the inaugural dinner of Trinity Church’s One Table Café on January 21. UrbanPromise youth sat down with senior citizens, scholars, and spiritualists. They dined on cheese and biscuits, pan-roasted Scottish salmon, and sweet potato puree, all without spending a dime.
The event also featured inaugural speaker Dr. Cornel West, the renowned Princeton University professor of religion and African American studies. West flew out from Los Angeles, Calif., where he appeared on the Craig Ferguson show, to speak to One Table Café’s guests and commemorate the Trinity Church’s outreach efforts.
“This is the human community at its best,” West said. “It’s all about love and compassion trying to generate bonds of trust.”
We were all gathered in our meeting room at the International Youth Hostel in Washington DC for our nightly wrap up. There were twenty of us this year, sharing our thoughts and feelings after three exhausting days of hiking many city miles, visiting Arlington Cemetery, memorials, museums, and much more. Tonight the exhaustion was both physical and emotional; we had been skating in the morning, hiked across the mall to visit the Holocaust Museum and then on to the White House to see the National Christmas tree display.
Tonight, Jaquis, a sophomore, told us how much she loved ice skating-it was the first time she had been on skates, and also the camaraderie with her classmates on her first visit to DC. Luis, a sophomore, and Jenny, a senior, were also first timers on skates and they too told us how much they enjoyed skating in an outdoor rink.
The conversation became more serious as Mr. Watkins, their history teacher, started asking the students to share their thoughts and feelings about the visit to the Holocaust Museum. After watching actual newsreels of the events from that period as well as interviews with survivors, the students had much to say. Vincent, a senior, and veteran of many UrbanTrekkers expeditions, told us he was in awe of Hitler’s ability to persuade and motivate an entire nation to do the things they did; he asked us to imagine what Hitler could have done if his message was one of love and compassion. Can you imagine? Chris, also a senior, was moved by the quote found on the wall as you exited the exhibit area, from Pastor Martin Niemoller:
"First they came for the Socialist, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionist, and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me."
One of the more exciting moments on our adventure this year came while riding the DC Metro. When the train came to a stop at our station the doors opened and we quickly exited along with the evening commuters, only to watch the doors close and the train move on with one shocked Trekker still stuck on the crowded Metro car. Quickly, the Trekkers began to panic and suggest we get on the next train to go find our lost comrade. Comments like “Mr. C, this is why you should allow us to take our cell phones when we travel” and “We will never find Bryant in this city” were shouted. After we got everyone to calm down we began to discuss our options and agreed it would be best to stay put and hope that Bryant would work his way back to us. We went to the Metro Info Center and reported our lost Trekker; luckily Bryant also went to a Metro official who got him back to our stop, and in less than twenty minutes we were reunited and on our way. Yes, another great teaching moment.
"Mr. C, I'm not afraid of heights anymore!" exclaimed Shanice. She had just finished climbing off the vertical tower that is the high point for the Ironwood Outdoor Center high ropes challenge course. Shanice was one of eight seniors from the UrbanPromise Academy who took part in our Winter Outdoor Leadership Training (OLT) weekend. The OLT is especially meaningful to this group, who all received their UrbanTrekkers vest as part of a solemn evening ceremony at Haddonfield Presbyterian Church. The black Trekker vest with the boot print logo is symbolic of both achievement and promise for our students, who are part of our experiential learning approach to education and Christian character development.
The weekend is designed to challenge the students intellectually, emotionally and physically. In an environment like UrbanPromise that allows the school principal, Mr. Marlowe, and strong adult mentors, like Mr. Lehman, to invest in the lives of our young people, amazing things can happen - far beyond the school day and the limits of a school schedule.
Part of the weekend provided a venue for the students to share with one another fears and obstacles that they see blocking their path to success and fulfillment. Zip lines, flying squirrels, vertical playgrounds, high ropes and lessons on servant leadership also served to build confidence and develop character.
"Mr. C, I'm not afraid of heights anymore!": that's a good thing, because Shanice is setting her sights pretty high as she prepares to graduate and move on to college and beyond. UrbanTrekkers and UrbanPromise are grateful to our staff and volunteers for keeping the bar high for our students.
Chris Kyle, and four classmates from Seattle Pacific Univiersity came to UrbanPromise to volunteer for 10 days...be encouraged by the following blog post about one of his days in Camden.
There is going to be a rebirth. It’s coming.
Jesus Castro, one of the leaders over here who’s only a couple years older than us, articulated this point brilliantly over our early morning devotionals. He was the first to explicitly say that Camden was on the up and up, or, at least, had some hope of survival. It was encouraging that somebody was finally willing to vocalize such words.
In the midst of my adventures today, I ran into a guy named Cleveland, who
was both verbose and willing to listen. We talked for about 45 minutes, and jumped from topic to topic concerning racial reconciliation, Camden’s rise and fall, me growing up in white ol’ Boise, as well as what I’ve been doing here for the last week. In walking away from the conversation, he brought up the point that as a witness to this city, I am responsible for the knowledge of Camden I’ve obtained. I’ve heard lines like this before involving other topics of heaviness, but this was a great reminder for both why I’m here, and what I’m to do when I leave. Going back to the journalistic piece, I suppose the least I can do is tell the story of Camden – both now and later.
Albeit, I want to be careful in saying what I feel this city needs, especially because I’m far from an expert on all the controversial matters that revolve around the topic; however, I feel it’s safe to say that education and relationship are two key points for what it takes to turn around this city.
Education for the sake of the next generation (as well as the current one), which can take the form of politics, social services, literacy, business, spirituality, etc., is a necessity of reforming all that has currently been lost.
As for relationships, the simple act of being present in a community and wanting to intentionally invest are two of the biggest factors. I mean, what were two things that Jesus did, as told throughout each of the gospels?
He taught and formed relationships with people. He taught so that people may understand truth, and he spoke so that people felt known, loved, and valued. The depravity of this city is more than just money – it’s of everything you and I have that is usually taken for granted.
Closing note: I nearly prayed myself to tears this morning realizing how wonderful my friends have been in supporting me on this trip through affirmative words. I couldn’t feel more blessed and confident that every minute in this city is drenched with genuine prayer. God is so so good.
All is done by His grace alone. Amen.
During the holiday break, theUrbanPromise International fellows held a concert at the Souderton Mennonite Home. Here Lindsey tells a heartwarming story from the event: After the performance, I was talking with two women that were seated in the front row. They were so thankful for our visit. One of the women started to stand and I quickly realized that she would not be able to do so on her own. Her walker was just inches in front of her, but she couldn’t muster the strength to reach out and pull herself up. I bent over to support her as she stood.
As I was helping I wondered "What it is like for this woman to need a stranger to help lift her body from her seat to a walker?" It’s hard for me to imagine what it must be like for people as their bodies age and they can no longer do the things that are so common in our daily lives. As people age, they confront new physical limitations and they face the inevitable...that relatively soon, life will come to an end. It must be difficult to accept.
After the woman was standing, I made my way toward Doreen. She was talking with another woman, Sarah. They were both smiling and laughing, there was clearly a connection between them. She was so impressed by Doreen’s testimony about joy…and a sense of joy despite struggles. As she prepared to return to her room, Sarah bent over toward Doreen, grabbed her right shoulder, looked deep into her eyes and said "I will see you in heaven". It was a beautiful moment.
I imagined Sarah and Doreen reuniting in heaven...smiling and laughing again. Christians from every nation and tongue will meet and rejoice together. This is so exciting to me! It reminds me of when Paul says, "I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body" (Phil 1:23-24). I can relate to that too. It is better by far to be with Christ in heaven, but while we are in our bodies, there is work for us to do here. God still has plans for the woman who could not manage to stand on her own and in time, I hope she will be free of the pain of her earthly body and will be rejoicing (and dancing!) before Jesus.