Jodina Hicks became passionate about the city of Camden and plight of children, teens, and families at 17 years old. Her first encounter with Camden was during the time of UrbanPromise’s start when she began helping Bruce Main in 1988. Shortly thereafter she moved to Camden so she could invest her time into young people, both through the work of UrbanPromise and by raising teens who were without family support.
Jodina turned her passion into a project and created the StreetLeader program, which is a teen employment and leadership initiative. Later in 1997 she led the development and opening of the UrbanPromise Academy, which serves as a last chance educational opportunity for at risk teens. Thousands of teens have been employed through the StreetLeader program and it’s since been replicated in 16 cities and countries.
In 1998, while still at UrbanPromise she enrolled at Rutgers Law School Camden's night program with the goal of focusing on human rights/prison reform. Midway through law school she left UrbanPromise to work in the realm of national social policy where she focused on children of prisoners, juvenile justice, and prisoner reentry at Public/Private Ventures. Her work included developing Amachi and Ready4Work (the President's Reentry Initiative). She helped to facilitate the social programmatic focus of two state of the unions and worked on the national implementation of both major projects during the 43rd presidency.
From there she served as Vice President and Chief Program Officer of the SAFER Foundation in Chicago which is the premier prisoner re-entry program in the nation. She led their direct programming with 10,000 people per year and led its policy work, focusing on local, state, and federal policy. Her policy work included crafting state and local legislation aimed at reducing barriers for formerly incarcerated individuals, writing federal recommendations and testimony (including for then US Senator Obama) and contributing to the State's blueprint policy publication and guidebook, The Illinois Plan to Reduce Recidivism and Improve Public Safety, She also created several large employment initiatives, including launching a staffing company for the formerly incarcerated, creating a green stimulus initiative, and developing a significant partnership with Chicago’s Streets & Sanitation department, which employed over 300 people a year with the City of Chicago.
Jodina returned to Camden in 2010, where she became Executive Director of UrbanPromise, now with a $4.2 million-dollar budget, over 60 full time staff members and hundreds of youth who are dependent on the programs that are provided. UrbanPromise has a near 100% graduation rate with almost 85% of alumni who have graduated from an institution of higher education.
After experiencing the tragic workplace homicide of her fiancée and partner in prisoner reentry, Jodina rebuilt her life with the support of her Camden and UrbanPromise community. She is now the mother of three children.