Alumni named award recipient

Aug. 9, 2021

I remember his first day of kindergarten…

My old VHS video camera, perched on my shoulder like a 20-pound sack of potatoes, captured the joy of our first class of five-year-olds charging through the front door. I wanted to capture this historic moment.

It was 1997. Our new elementary school, CamdenForward, opened its doors to 28 pre-k and kindergarten students.

Like any start-up, UrbanPromise’s CamdenForward School began as a dream. Twenty-five years ago the city of Camden offered parents few educational options—besides underperforming public schools.

Parents wanted more for their children: small classes, Christian values, high academic standards, safety and minimal tuition. UrbanPromise believed this was a unique moment to create a new kind of school—a school creating a new generation of Camden leaders steeped in faith, compassion, and academic excellence.

Leading his class that morning was a bubbly, happy, curious boy named Dennis Nelson. Over the years our teachers and staff poured time and attention into Dennis, participating in each of his academic and developmental milestones: elementary school graduation, high school, first job, college, and dean of students at our high school.

Recently, 29-year-old Dennis Nelson was recognized as the KIPP New Jersey 2021 TEAMspy Award winner for his contribution of improving the quality of education in the city of Camden. Dennis teaches 7th grade mathematics at the KIPP school in Lanning Square.


My city. My kids. My responsibility. Growing up in Camden made me the motivated, resilient, caring educator that I am today. I naturally want to see others do well. Because of my diverse experiences at UrbanPromise and in college, I feel that I can connect with anyone.

–Dennis Nelson, UrbanPromise Alum


Twenty-five years ago—when UrbanPromise took a huge risk to open the CamdenForward School—we dreamed of this day. We dreamed of our graduates, becoming leaders, changing their city. That dream….that dream is now a reality.


Grateful for your faithfulness,

Bruce Main
Founder and President

P.S. Please read the remarkable interview below with Dennis about his journey to become one of Camden’s top teachers.

P.S.S. If you’re interested in partnering with a student at our CamdenForward School or UrbanPromise Academy, contact Jennifer Giordano at (856) 287-9357 or