UrbanPromise Academy is a private, Christian high school that fulfills the needs of students who have not met their academic potential in traditional school settings and often enter two to three grade levels below national standards.
Founded in 1997, the Academy offers Camden youth a unique schooling opportunity with a low teacher to student ratio, a family-style learning environment, an emphasis on community service, and experiential and expeditionary learning. UrbanPromise Academy currently boasts a 98% graduation rate sees 93% of graduates enter college. Extracurricular opportunities include the school’s Elite Cycling Team, UrbanTrekkers, Urban BoatWorks, and Students In Action (SIA).
CamdenForward School is a private, Christian elementary and middle school for kindergarten through eighth grade students. With a learning environment rich in love, hope, and structure, the school challenges students to attain high academic standards, learn necessary life skills, maintain personal integrity, and develop a Christian worldview.
In 1997 CamdenForward School opened with only two grade levels: pre-kindergarten and kindergarten. UrbanPromise established an additional grade each year thereafter until all elementary and middle school (K-8) classes were available. The school now serves around 113 students from the Camden area. Music, dance, visual arts, and unique extracurricular learning opportunities (such as Urban BoatWorks and SeaQuest) supplement CamdenForward School’s comprehensive academic curriculum.
AfterSchool Programs and Summer Camps were UrbanPromise’s first programs in the city of Camden. Since 1988 thousands of children have participated in activities that include arts and crafts, Bible study, recreation, life skills workshops, academic enrichment classes, and community service. During the academic year, more than 300 children attend one of six AfterSchool Programs and around 450 participate in our six-week Summer Camps located in nine city neighborhoods. Within a safe and stimulating environment, these programs provide opportunities for children to improve their academic performance, develop necessary life skills, create positive relationships with caring adults, explore the arts, and nurture their faith.
Special academic-year activities and events include our annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Speech Contest, Math Dare, Thanksgiving family dinners, and spring break trips. Summer favorites include weekly field trips (typically to a swimming pool or roller-skating rink), the Summer Carnival, and All Camp Day.
Through UrbanPromise’s StreetLeader Program, 75-100 Camden-area teens are employed each year as counselors, tutors, and mentors for the children who attend our AfterSchool Programs and Summer Camps.
Many StreetLeader teens are AfterSchool Program graduates and return to work within our camps because they are passionate about mentoring the next generation of Camden youth. The heart of the StreetLeader Program is challenging teens to use their influence to make positive changes in the lives of these children, in their own lives, and throughout their communities.
In addition to job training, StreetLeaders participate in community service; life skills classes; one-on-one tutoring; SAT/ACT courses; academic enrichment courses; and arts activities. Teens are encouraged to avoid negative influences and focus on their academic and professional future. The program’s focus on achievement has led to a 100% graduation rate and a 95% college attendance rate of StreetLeader seniors.
UrbanPromise believes art education is a vital component of the overall development of our children and teens. Weekly visual art instruction provides opportunities for our young people to enrich their lives by practicing skills in observation, imaginative thinking and creative production, and in building self-esteem and confidence.
Through the innovative and nurturing instruction of our art teachers, UrbanPromise youth have created brilliant works of art that represent their personal journeys, pride in their city, and hopes for the future. Prints and note cards of selected works are available for purchase.
UrbanPromise’s expeditionary education program, UrbanTrekkers provides hands-on learning and journey-based experiences to around 100 youth each year. Through travel to places beyond their everyday lives, youth are motivated to learn more about themselves and the world around them and to develop their potential as young leaders. Each trip is focused around participants’ cross-cultural experiences, environmental awareness, historical knowledge, and community service.
UrbanTrekkers offers four core expeditions each year: Maine in summer, Assateague Island in fall, Washington, DC in winter, and varying locations during the spring season. UrbanTrekkers' newest expedition is a two-week trek through five national parks in Colorado and Utah for twenty students from UrbanPromise Camden, Honduras, Wilmington, and Trenton. Youth also participate in one-day field trips and invitational excursions, including New Trekker Orientation, the Sedge Island Project, Outdoor Leadership Training, and a Rite of Passage extreme adventure.
In partnership with the Camden Shipyard and Maritime Museum, Urban BoatWorks teaches middle and high school youth how to build wooden paddle boards, canoes, and kayaks. Since the program’s first year in 2009, 18 boats have been handcrafted and launched on the water.
BoatWorks' goals go beyond teaching the craft of wooden boat-building. Through working with BoatWorks instructors—nearly all of whom are volunteers—students also learn the skills they need to become productive, responsible adults and leaders among peers. During each build year, they take swimming lessons so that they are prepared to paddle their boats on the water during UrbanPromise’s summer paddling season.
UrbanPromise launched the Wellness Center to address health concerns associated with growing up in concentrated urban poverty. A joint venture with First Presbyterian Church, Haddonfield, the Center’s mission is to reduce the impact of toxic stress on our community, thus providing the opportunity for optimal well-being of body, mind and spirit. The Wellness Center trains UrbanPromise staff to recognize signs of trauma; offers counseling to youth, families and staff; promotes healthy habits and provides unique education programs encouraging creativity and wellbeing.
With more than 20 years of experience in providing employment for teens, UrbanPromise launched the UrbanChefs program in 2014 with support from the Walmart Foundation.
UrbanChefs receive hands-on training and employment in the culinary arts. Their work supports food programs at UrbanPromise and provides more than 600 children and teens at UrbanPromise with healthy meals. UrbanChefs increase their own understanding of nutrition, using MyPlate, and educate others, providing the opportunity for children and teens to make healthier food choices.
UrbanPromise hopes that the UrbanChefs program can grow to provide healthy meals to other Camden schools and non-profits. As a service provider, UrbanChefs will be able to employ more youth, prepare healthy meals for more children, and generate modest income that will make the program self-sustaining.