About Us: Our Mission & History

A Few Words from Bruce

Bruce Main: Founder & President

Thirty years ago the vision and mission of UrbanPromise was conceived in a dusty church basement in East Camden, NJ. A small group of college missionaries created a summer camp for neighborhood children--providing a safe, loving, fun and creative place for local youth to escape dangerous city streets.

The response from the community was overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Young people attended in droves, demonstrating a hunger to engage in activities that challenged academic, spiritual and social growth. UrbanPromise has since diversified our programmatic offerings to include two schools, job training, after-school programs, boat building, expeditionary and experiential learning, college tours, faith development opportunities, and a host of other activities. But the core of our organization will always be about relationships and the message that every child and teen is wonderfully created in the image of God.

The UrbanPromise Mission

Our mission is to equip Camden's children and young adults with the skills necessary for academic achievement, life management, spiritual growth, and Christian leadership.

In the last 30 years, UrbanPromise has hosted 1,600 interns from around the world. These college-aged adults dedicate a summer or entire year of service to the city of Camden.

UrbanPromise's work in Camden has inspired 20+ replications around the world.

Since our first year in Camden, more than 30,000 individuals have donated to our organization, enabling us to provide quality programming to thousands of youth.

Our History

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 $4.4 million and employs approximately 50 full-time employees and 20 part-time employees. In addition, UP provides more than 100 young people with part-time jobs throughout the 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 history, this relational approach has yielded tremendous success: 92% of high school students graduate and 89% transition to college (82%) or a vocational training program (7%). Many alumni 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 more than 20 locations around the world.