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Cliff Lee Throws Strikeouts for UrbanPromise Youth

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Cliff Lee & Karim

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee has once again teamed up with Holman Automotive to support children’s charities in our community! Holman has agreed to donate $150 to the “Cliff’s K’s for Kids” fundraising effort for each strikeout Cliff throws during the 2012 Phillies season. The total amount raised will be donated to UrbanPromise and another local charity.

As of August 31, 2012, $23,400 had been raised!

A big thanks to Holman Automotive and Cliff Lee for their support.

Learn more about Holman & Cliff’s K’s for kids.

Keepin’ Cool at Camp

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

It’s been pretty steamy in Camden this summer, but our camps are staying cool as best they can.

A water balloon fight between Camp Spirit kids and staff broke out in front of CamdenForward School yesterday in an attempt to minimize the heat.

Hope it helped!

Mr. Groundhog visits UrbanPromise

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Today at  UrbanPromise Camden we had a surprise vist from the much loved UrbanPromise Groundhog. I understand many of you have not heard of the UrbanPromise Groundhog but there was much excitement in the office when he just walked in. He spent some time in the office and then decided to hang out underneath the stairs. He made a quick exit when one unnamed fan got too excited and started screaming.

For footage of this unexpected visit go to http://youtu.be/ffL_bd6mkoA. Show your support of UrbanPromise’s newest development team member and click here to make a donation.

Celebrating 25 years of summer camps

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012


I love the first day of summer camp.

And this year, I’m even more excited as we celebrate our 25th anniversary in the city of Camden.

The beginning of camp always begins the same way for me: I get in my car, drive to each of our eight camps, meet parents, watch interns adjust to their new roles nervously, listen to energetic children exhaust their lungs while singing, and watch our StreetLeader teens assume new levels of leadership. This last part is my favorite.bruce_richard

Take Richard and Tiana, for example–they embody the UrbanPromise vision. Richard started as a camper when he was five, became a StreetLeader at 14, and now serves as a field supervisor at age 19.  ”Summers at UrbanPromise mean the world to me. I can’t stay away,” Richard told me.

Tiana, age 14, just graduated from 8th grade at our CamdenFoward School. This is her first job and first summer as a StreetLeader. “I’ve waited six years to work here,” Tiana said. “As a camp kid I couldn’t wait until I was old enough.” She’s finally made the move from camper to leader.

Our 25th summer will be special for several reasons. Each day, more than 500 children and teens will enjoy healthy, free breakfast and lunch, recreation, Bible time, arts and crafts, and trips to the swimming pool and rollerskating rink. More importantly, 100 teens and young college-aged students will learn leadership by directing camp activities and mentoring the younger children in their communities. And I will watch them grow in their faith, vision, and capacity to impact and motivate the next generation of Camden’s children to do the same.

God bless,

Dr. Bruce Main

P.S. Click here to sponsor a child so they can participate in on of our FREE summer camps in the city!

IN THE NEWS: Classwork anything but dry

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

boat launch

Courier Post, June 3, 2012
Written by Joe Conney, Courier-Post Staff

Kids, kayaks, canoes and the Cooper River could be construed as a risky combination.

But all went well Saturday morning as more than a dozen youngsters from Camden’s UrbanPromise BoatWorks launched the crafts they had been building for the last eight months.

After hundreds of hours of measuring, sawing, sanding, epoxying and applying coats of varnish, the students said they were thrilled to launch their creations near the Camden County Boathouse.

boat launch 2

“I never built a boat before,” said Noah Washington, a 12-year-old from Willing

boro. “It was actually very cool.”

Jim Cummings, the director of experiential learning at UrbanPromise, said themiddle and high school students started working on their wooden watercrafts at the beginning of the school year.

About 50 kids participate in the BoatWorks program, Cummings said, and are divided into groups of six or seven students. Each group would work on the boats one day a week. Six canoes and two kayaks were built in the basement of the Camden Shipyard and Maritime Museum in the Waterfront South section of the city.

“We got finished (Friday) night,” Cummings said with a big smile. “And some will have to go back to the shop on Monday. They’re all floating, but some still need some sanding and another coat of finish.”

Cummings said the students have also been learning about the local ecology and urban waterways. Some were skeptical about heading out onto the Cooper River.

“They said, ‘Mr. C., it’s polluted. There are bodies in there,’ ” Cummings said. “The urban community is so disconnected from the water. But there’s so much water all around us. And this has been a very cool introduction for them.”

The boats were officially launched and blessed about 8:30 Saturday morning. After some additional water safety instructions and a pizza lunch, the students boarded their creations to get ready for a two-hour adventure along the Tidal Cooper River.

“I got two bottles of water ’cause it’s gonna be hot,” said 14-year-old Kelechi Johnson as he settled into his wooden kayak.

Asked how hard it is to balance himself in the kayak, Johnson said he practices a lot. “I practice balancing myself on the curb when I’m walking home,” said the student, who is in the advanced BoatWorks class.

“I’m really looking forward to this trip.”

Somewhat hesitant was Faith Kroma, 15. She said she couldn’t swim.

“But I have a life jacket,” she smiled. “And I know how to yell ‘Help.’ This is going to be real fun, but I’m a little nervous.”

Noah Washington climbed into the front of an aluminum canoe that was captained by UrbanPromise volunteer Tom Culp of Moorestown.

“This has been real fun,” Culp said. “The kids are great and this is good for them. And they get really excited when they finally get the boats into the water after all the tedious sanding.”

Kroma, paddling a canoe from the bow seat, was smiling and laughing even after someone asked her if she had seen the movie “Titanic.”

“Hey,” yelled the bubbly teenager. “Stop playing. I’m really nervous.” But she was still grinning.

At about 12:45, the flotilla of 17 kayaks and 11 canoes, manned by the students, volunteers and members of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, made their way west. Destination Pyne Poynt Marina at the Delaware River under the shadow of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

“Where the Cooper meets the Delaware is absolutely gorgeous,” Cummings said. “You have the Philly skyline and some great wildlife there. This is an incredible gem we have here right in our community.”


Oh, the places you’ll go…

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

I couldn’t help but think of the inspirational and whimsical Dr. Seuss book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, when Terron came by my office the other day.

Terron graduating from Eastern University, May 2012.Home from college for spring break, he stopped in to make sure I had his upcoming graduation from Eastern University on my calendar.  I wouldn’t miss it for anything.  Terron was one of my first students when I began UrbanTrekkers eight years ago. (UrbanTrekkers is a program at UrbanPromise that focuses on expeditionary, hands-on learning.)

The two of us began to reminisce about the locations to which we had traveled during his years at our high school,UrbanPromise Academy.  We shared about the first ever UrbanTrekker spring break trip to Mt. Washington, NH—the challenging hikes, moose, and amazing vistas; our journey to Vancouver, BC and Terron’s first time on a plane; the Olympic Peninsula where we came so close to hitting a deer with our van; Florida’s Everglades and their ever-present alligators; our annual end-of-summer trips to Maine that included kayaking off Port Clyde; and that final week before high school graduation, the Senior Rite of Passage, in upstate New York.


I’m often asked by friends and supporters what impact UrbanPromise has on the students with whom I work—city kids like Terron, who likely would never experience the travel adventures that have become an integral part of their high school.  What are UrbanPromise’s program outcomes? people ask.  It’s a fair question, yet not always easily quantified.

Thinking of such questions, I asked Terron, “What did those experiences do for you?”  He reflected for a moment, and I could tell he was giving my inquiry serious thought.  He finally responded, “Mr. C, when I was getting ready to begin my studies at Eastern University, what I feared the most was not if I could succeed academically; the scary part for me was whether I’d feel like I belonged.”  Eastern is a private Christian university located in Main Line Philadelphia, PA. It’s a world away from Camden, NJ.  Terron was incredibly nervous as he imagined trying to fit in with the school’s students and culture—both so removed from everything he knew.

He went on to say, “Everyone knows your story when you say you’re from Camden; it’s a story of drugs, violence, and poverty. You are the 5 o’clock news! But I had other stories, too. UrbanTrekkers gave me my stories.”

Our conversation returned to his Senior Rite of Passage trip to the Adirondack Mountains and Saranac Lake.  During one afternoon, my friend Bob Harris and I left each senior student on a small island with just the bare essentials; the students were to spend 24 hours in quiet reflection.  There was a severe storm the night they spent alone in their tents on the beach.  Away from the students, Bob and I began to feel anxious as we realized the magnitude of the storm from our camp’s distant shore.

Fortunately, it passed quickly and rain began to fall with less intensity.  We were able to get to the beach in a small boat to check on Terron and his classmates.  Terron‘s tent had lost the fly (rain cover) and had two inches of water in the bottom.  We helped him re-situate the tent, find and re-attach the fly, and told him we’d see him in the morning.  I’ll never forget his surprise when he realized we wouldn’t be rescuing him from the island that night.  But more importantly, something else he said stuck with me.  He told me not to worry about him, adding, “I know how to take care of myself. I’ve done it all my life.”

Jim Cummings
Director of Experiential Learning

Pedal for Promise

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Elite Team

I’ve got a confession to make—mea culpa!—I didn’t think Marissa could do it.

When the UrbanPromise Academy junior joined the high school’s Elite Cycling Team—which included a 12-week intensive training regimen—I had my doubts. Before you call me a cynic, though, let me add that I think the world of Marissa and have always enjoyed her sassy and spunky personality. I’ve known her since her middle school days at our CamdenForward School where she participated in an UrbanTrekker after-school program. Elite
Marissa is an outgoing, vivacious young woman—there’s no question about it. But the Elite Team’s early morning practices, three-month commitment, and 50-mile goal made me doubt she would make it to the end.

But she proved me wrong! With tears of joy in her eyes, surrounded by a cheering section of friends and family, Marissa crossed the finish line and exclaimed, “I did it!”

She accomplished what I never imagined: She completed the Pedal for Promise and our seemingly endless weeks of training, and she did it with a determination and drive that impressed all those who rode along with her. I joined in her celebration after crossing the finish line—a few minutes after she had already arrived.

With 300 riders, a fundraising total of $57,000—and counting!—for experiential learning programs, and a group of young people feeling an overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment, the event was undoubtedly a success.

Jim Cummings
Director of Experiential Learning

Pedal for Promise Rookies & Veterans

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012


UrbanPromise Elite Team: From the corner store to 50 miles

Friday, May 4th, 2012

AlexSince March, a group of UrbanPromise Academy high school students have spent each Sunday biking through New Jersey to train for Pedal for Promise. For some, this is their first time on a bicycle—or at least, the first time they’ve traveled any long distance on a bike.

UrbanPromise Academy freshman, Alex Deleon, has truly embraced the riding experience—even if his legs are pretty sore Monday morning as he climbs the Academy stairs. Recently, Alex shared that finishing the 50 miles will be an incredible accomplishment for him.

“I’ve only ever ridden to the corner store and back home, Mr. C,” he said. “Fifty miles is going to be hard!”

It will be hard, but it will also be an unforgettable experience and achievement that Alex will treasure for the rest of his life. Students like Alex need your support and encouragement to make it to the finish line.

IN THE NEWS: A Haddonfield artist takes teens and their hopes as her subject

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

portraitsPhiladelphia Inquirier
April 17, 2012
By Kevin Riordan

Haddonfield artist Natalie Italiano is painting a documentary.

Her “100 Portraits of American Teenagers” is a kinetic collection of close-ups - on canvas and online - of local high school students.

“I plan to do a gallery show and a book as well,” says Italiano, 57, whose subjects also write about themselves. Their musings, and digital images of her portraits, can be seen at www.natalieitaliano.blogspot.com.

I met Italiano at Repenning Fine Arts in Audubon, a school and studio that has supported the project since she started it in September 2010. Alongside four other painters seeking to perfect their technique, the artist will create a portrait of Natasha Santiago.

A senior at the Pennsauken campus of the Camden County Vocational Schools, Santiago is among 20 Camden youths participating in the project through an arrangement with Urban Promise ministries in the city. All but three of the other portrait subjects are from suburban high schools in South Jersey.

“I’m a little nervous,” Santiago, 17, says before taking a seat in a flood of light. “But I think it will be pretty cool.”

She’s right: It’s fascinating to watch her face take shape on five canvases simultaneously.

The personable, thoroughly professional Italiano sets the pace and an easygoing, though serious, tone befitting a teacher at Studio Incamminati in Philadelphia, an art school founded by the noted Bucks County realist Nelson Shanks.

Portraits 2Using the alla prima (”first”) technique, she quickly renders the infrastructure, then the architecture, of her striking subject’s facial features.

Likewise, the brushes of fellow South Jersey artists Carol Kirkwood, Linda Dennin, Donna Metzler, and Adelaide D’Antonio rarely stop moving. Pausing only to step back or squint, they skillfully add dabs of contrasting oil pigments, finding depths, burnishing highlights.

As strummy music plays on the painters murmur among themselves, and the vibe in the studio becomes almost hypnotic.

As four hours pass, Italiano and her colleagues look deeper at and into the young woman who sits motionless in front of them, transferring their discoveries to canvas in ever tinier, more exacting strokes.

It’s work, what these artists do.

And the model, who gets paid $40, is working, too.

Santiago remains poised and focused for each 20-minute stretch. I don’t notice a single fidget or shift of position. But at every six-minute break, she leaps out of her chair like the teenager she is.

“It’s tiring,” Santiago says, although you wouldn’t know it from the glow on her face.

“It’s like having someone write a song about you,” says Jim Repenning, who, with his wife and fellow artist, Kristin, runs the studio and school on Kings Highway.

“You’re watching people create their image of you.”

And getting it right.

“It’s me!” Santiago exclaims.

The project was inspired by a Rose Frantzen show Italiano saw several years at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington.

As her own two children were leaving the nest, she got the idea of “doing portraiture, which is often reserved for the elite.”

Italiano’s earliest subjects included friends of her children. At the Acme market in Haddonfield, she discovered four young people willing to model. She found others in classes at Repenning or Incamminati.

As she has come to know them all, Italiano says she has been struck by their “warmth and seriousness” - qualities surely at odds with the image of teens as heedless textaholics.

She also gives the models a questionnaire, asking them to talk about issues, plans, and what matters most to them.

“Despite certain cultural or economic differences,” Italiano says, “they all seem to have a really positive view on life.”

In other words, they have hope.

And when I look at the portraits of Natasha, Christian, and Caroline, or of the other glorious young faces among the “100 Portraits of American Teenagers,” I have hope, too.