A retired lawyer and a struggling high school senior make his college dream a reality!


“I want to help that guy let go of his unrealistic expectations and prepare for a college where he could actually play.” Bob Lehman pointed emphatically at Thomas as he answered my question; I had just asked him what he wanted to do at UrbanPromise as he prepared to retire from a 42-year career at Archer & Greiner.

Thomas has been at UrbanPromise since he was five years old, first in afterschool programs and then at the CamdenForward School. His brother was a neighborhood teen when we started UrbanPromise; his cousin was one of our first UrbanPromise Academy students. Both had very

challenging childhoods and went the way of the streets. Thomas himself teetered at times and made a reputation for himself, which wasn’t all good. “Attitude” was the most common word used to describe him, even by his peers.

But he had a mother who was adamant that he would stick with school and have a better chance at life. He had a K-8 principal at UrbanPromise (Denise Baker) who cried, prayed, prodded, and checked in with Thomas every day after meeting him when he was in the 5th grade. And now he had Bob, a cut and dry attorney who comes across as gruff and stoic, but has a heart of gold.

“He needs to get real,” said Lehman. “He’s not going to the NBA or a D-1 school, but he could go to college, get a degree, and play college ball. That’s what I want to spend my time on.”

Six months later, two SAT tests, an application, one FAFSA form, and multiple financial aid forms complete, Bob was glowing like a proud parent. Thomas had found a four-year college where the coach had interest in him and had been admitted. “I’m so glad this is settling down.  I need to get my sleep; Thomas’ constant texting is keeping me up too late,” he said with a smile.

It wasn’t that simple, though.  The college bill – even after the loans and grants were applied – was prohibitive.  Once again, Bob went into action researching options, meeting with UrbanPromise’s college advisor, and looking into scholarship opportunities.

Two weeks ago, Thomas started college. He loves it. He’s coming home next weekend to see his family, including “Mr. Bob.” They have a Chick-Fil-A date scheduled.

In September, 180 students started school with UrbanPromise; 400 children and 80 teens will start after-school programs.  Amongst them will be many more Thomases, in need of the peer support, mentorship, and care that UrbanPromise offers.

Your support allows UrbanPromise to be a holistic community committed to providing innovative programs, scholarship support, wellness counseling, and most importantly loving, caring adults who are spurred on by their faith to invest in the most important things in life – our youth. 

I hope you’ll make a gift this fall to help us continue our back to school efforts.

Thank you! 

Jodina Hicks
Executive Director