Blog: February 2010

Friday, February 26

mark1

Mark, Mike and Braheem shared thier heartwarming story of friendship at the UrbanPromise Banquet.

Mark:

I'm Mark.  I've been around Urban Promise for about 14 years.  Through the after school programs, summer camps. I was a street leader and Urban Trekker.  I graduated from Urban Promise Academy in 2009.  I've been a part of just about everything there is to be a part of at Urban Promise.  Currently, I'm a student at Rutger's New Brunswick - taking a semester off to work and pay for school


Mike:

I'm Mike.  I've been with Urban Promise since 2nd grade.  My cousin would bring me up here when I was little...and I guess I just stayed.  Here I always had someone to talk to, someone to hang out with, to help me if I had problems.  And as it's turned out, I still do.


Mark:

I've known Mike since the 3rd grade. We met at school but then over and over again we'd meet up - we had a lot of other encounters.  Like once we were in this spelling bee.  Mike came in first place, I came in second.


Mike:

I guess I was good at spelling. I mean, I wasn't really interested in it but they said I should try and I was so nervous - but somehow I guess the words just came to me...


Mark:

If you can believe it, I lost on the word black.  B-L-A-C-K, black.  I never entered again.


Mike:

Me and Mark have done a lot of things together...from thinking we were ninjas, to climbing trees and trying to build a tree house to letting my brother convince us to do some pretty stupid things.


Mark:

In 5th grade we ended up coming to the same camp here at Urban Promise.  And that's when we became best friends.  We've done everything together.  We did Urban Trekkers together, we were in the same class at Urban Promise Academy, we even lived on the same street...


Mike:

Urban Promise Academy was tough but it was fun - it was tough because our teachers expected more from us, and they wanted more for us - they knew that our true potential was more than just squeezing by with average grades.  And so they pushed us. And I was part of a pretty incredible freshman class.  We just stick together.  If we had a problem, we'd find a way to settle it together.  It really was like on big family.


Braheem:

My 8th grade year I was looking for a high school and my aunt found Urban Promise Academy.  And so I started as a freshman.  For the first couple weeks I didn't' really say much cause I didn't' know anybody - but there were three of us that just stayed in the back in homeroom.   The three of us have common interests like movies and cars and technology and video games and stuff...


Mike:

At first me and mark really stood together, we were best friends - inseparable really. But when Braheem came in - we realized that he's not so bad - don't tell him I said so, but he's actually kind of cool - We would talk about music and movies - he turned us onto a band called Maroon 5


Braheem:

I had always listened to different kinds of music. As a little kid, my mom wouldn't let me listen to rap...so it was just oldies and stuff like that.  And so I guess I developed an ear for different kinds of sounds.  Eventually, when I could listen to rap, it got kind of boring - all the mainstream artists were saying the same thing.  I wanted different melodies and different rhythms - not just the narrow-minded and shallow stuff everybody's trying to sell to you.


Mark:

We loved Maroon 5 - especially this one song...it became like our theme for freshman year.


Braheem:

I always know little details and facts about movies - sometimes before they even came out.  I've always loved movies and by my Junior Year I decided I wanted to be a film-maker.  I now go to Fairly Dickson University and study film.  I'm working props for a short film now, I've already written a screenplay and one day I'll be a director.


Mike:

I just started Camden community college.  I'm studying criminal justice and one day I'd like to join the police force.  I want to be a police officer b/c growing up our family had a lot of problems and the cops were always there and helped do make things okay.  I always knew I wanted to the kind of man who was around to make things okay.


Mark:

At the end of our senior year, there was group of five of us - Braheem, Mike and I and two others.  We'd all been Urban Trekkers and we'd all been together since freshman year.  And so to mark that time, we were taken on Rite of Passage camping trip.


Braheem:

It was one of the best experiences of my life...although the mountain climbing was pretty rough - I cramped up at the end.


Mike:

It was a great trip. We all got so much tighter hiking and talking - getting to know each other better...but then that dreadful day came when we were each put on our own small island to spend the night alone.


Braheem:

We each got one tent,


Mike:

one gallon of water,


Mark:

a mess kit that had a bowl, a spork, a canister of gas for cooking, and enough food to last one day


Mike:

and a whistle for emergencies.


Mark:

We got there and it was beautiful day - I was the first person on my island - it was a great island with a lot of trees.


Mike:

But this would turn out to be the one night of the trip that it would storm -


Braheem:

We laugh about it now but that day...but we were really scared.


Mark:

The sky got dark, and then the wind came and the rain - fortunately I was safe, I knew I was - but I could hear some of the other guys yelling - and the storm just got worse and worse.


Mike:

It got so bad that it broke my tent broke!  During the storm the rods of my tent completely snapped - I was soaked and didn't know what to do... I was whistling and whistling for help...


Braheem:

The worst part I think was not knowing how the others were doing.


Mark:

and I knew none of the guys could swim, so there I was thinking I might have to leave my completely safe little island and swim across - I didn't know what to do.


Mike:

Finally, Mr. C came by on the boat, surveyed the situation, and then just tossed me a roll of duct tape.  "I thought it was an emergency" he said "...you'll survive"  And, off he went.  Well...I guess in the long run he was right.  But at the time all I wanted was to get off that stupid island.


Mark:

It was a rite of passage and transformation from being a high school student to being a high school graduate.  But more importantly it was our transformation from adolesance into becoming men.


Mike:

I put together the rods and pitched my tent between 2 trees and used string to make a teepee sort of thing.  I poured out the water and climbed in and went to sleep.


Mark:

Later we got to talk about what we'd been through...that night on the island and even more so about our past.  We got to talk about a lot of things that we'd never knew about each other.  We reflected back on high school and other times we'd seen each other change and grow.  We talked about our friendship. We were growing up right before each other's eyes.


Braheem:

Everybody was given a chance to talk about whatever.  We talked about things that we know are there that other people don't see.  And it felt okay.  It felt easy to open up to the people that were in front of me. I talked about how I don't really know my father.  We could say anything and we could do anything...but we knew we were still cool.  By the time our senior year came we were all pretty tight.  But as close as we were - this trip made us brothers forever.


Mark:

While we were on the island, we had assignments too...


Mike:

We had to write about the past four years and our friends and something about creation -


Braheem:

We each had to take a name out of a hat and we had to find something on our island that represented that person.  I got Mike.  I chose a pine cone because while all the little pieces are different and there are lots of pieces, they all lead to the top.  That's Mike.  The guy that chose me found a piece of metal on his island.  He said he chose it because it stood out.  I mean, I guess I stand out.  I guess I'm different - but in a good way - just not like everyone else - it's not something I try to do it's just the way it works.  I'm not the most social person -so I don't always want to try and fit in with everyone. In a big crowd I just go the other way- but with my friends I can be who I am.


Mike:

The greatest gift I got from Urban Promise is trust. I gained more trust in people - growing up I didn't' really trust the people around me.  I don't have a dad and no grandfather.  And so it was good to Urban Promise.  My teachers at UPA, I look at them like father figures - I trust them and know they are not going to do me wrong.


Braheem:

The best kind of movie is when on the surface it's compelling, but not that complex - yet if you look closer there is so much depth and so many layers.  That's the kind of filmmaker I want to be.


Mike:

In Camden there are a lot of people that need help.  I want to help people.  I want to do something for my community.  Sometimes people put us down for being from Camden - but Urban Promise tells us that we can do better - I want to help people from Camden be better. I want to be known as somebody who helps other people - and the funny little Asian kid that was always around Urban Promise.


Mark:

I want to be known for being a caring person and a person that gives a lot - I don't know where I'd be without Urban Promise helping me through my past struggles and even helping me with my struggles now.  Throughout my life, whenever I needed something or someone to talk to, someone is there.  So I want to be remembered for my service and what I've given back and given to other people and how I've inspired others


Braheem:

I feel like you can put anything you can think of on screen.  I want to be like the best director ever.  I want to make the best movie ever and hope it inspires someone to go out and make an even better movie.  That's what you do...you put out an idea and hope it sparks an idea from someone else and it goes on like that.


Mike:

Through this place and these friends, I've learned that no matter what they'll be there for you - I've met the people that can walk you thru- so that you can see and make the right decisions in your own life.  I think that our friendship will go far.  In fact we just talked about this on the trip - about who would be in our wedding...I'm looking forward to it.

Friday, February 26

boat_story

Clarence:

First you take the boards, measure all of them, cut out the wood and sand it until bends – it’s funny because the wood becomes both strong and wobbly. Then…once you bend it into shape you apoxy it – you mix up this brown stuff that looks like peanut butter and then you glue it and tie it - you wait for a few days for the it dry, you seal it, you sand it, and then you paint it…and then you got a boat!

Elaine:

Well he came home and said he could take someone on the boat with him. And he asked if I wanted to join him. I mean, I’d been on a boat when I was younger but it’s been at least 20 years…way before he was born…and I never imagined the next time I’d be on a boat that it would be one that my son built. I thought about it for a while and figured sure why not…and I’m glad I did.

Clarence:

We met at an old church and learned step by step how to build it. We built a boat. From nothing. We named them Grace, Faith and Promise.

Elaine:

When we first got there I asked if I could sit in the boat on land…you know, just to get a feel for it. And when they launched in the water and I just stood back. –

Clarence:

I kind of got scared at first being on the water. I mean, I’d never even been on a boat before. It was my first time on a boat…and I built it…and it worked!

Elaine:

I could tell though – the longer he was out there the more excited he got. And then it was my turn…

Clarence:

I really thought we were going to tip over. She stepped in on the edge and I had to lean off to one side. I thought we were going in for sure…and I know she was scared. But once we got it, we were good…and I started rowing us further and further from dock.

boat

Elaine:

We went pretty far out there.

Clarence:

And then when I turned around to come back in…she didn’t even want to get out…

Elaine: I told him no take me out some more

Clarence: so my friend jumped in with us and out we went. I was really happy.

Elaine:

It was exciting. And come to find out Sunday morning we were in the paper. Sometimes I just go on line on the computer and just go back and look at the newspaper article and think wow – we actually did that. He actually did that.

Clarence:

I was pretty much completely excited.

Elaine:

I’m so glad he got into this program – he’s come so far and I can see that he’s progressed. And he loves it. I’m so thankful that he’s not on the corners getting into trouble or selling drugs. I just hope Clarence’s two younger brothers can get into something like this too.

Clarence:

I was excited to turn 14 last year because I knew it meant that I could become a Street Leader and be a part of Urban Trekkers. I always wanted to be a Street Leader because the ones before us were always inspiring us to do something big – to do something right. And it looks like I have.

Wednesday, February 24
Wednesday, February 24

An excerpt from Steve Luu's speech (He won 3rd place), Age 9, 4th Grade:

"When I think of Martin Luther King Jr I think of the greatest inspirer ever. He made a speech "I Have a Dream."  A speech that brought great hope to the people of America. I love Martin Luther King Jr because if he didn't bring black and white people together I wouldn't have some good black friends like Donte and Johnnie Boy.

Martin's dream was to bring black and white people from different parts of America together to have hope, joy, peace plus harmony. This is something that can be seen today in America.

The person who killed Martin should have come to UrbanPromise, if he came to urban promise he would not have done such a horrible thing. Because UrbanPromise teaches us to love each other and not to kill each other.

So I am calling out all people here to be like Martin Luther King Jr because he brought hope to many American people."

Tuesday, February 23

bike

I was talking to Chris last week, telling him it was time: time to get ready for the Pedal for Promise.  Remember Chris, now a junior at the UrbanPromise Academy?  Two weeks before last year's Pedal for Promise, Chris stopped by my office to ask me to teach him how to ride a bike; he wanted to be part of our fifty mile (Rowan University to Ocean City, NJ) fund raising event.  I agreed to help but had serious reservations we could pull it off in time.  Every day for two weeks Chris took his scrapes and bruises along with dings and dents to my bike, yet his determination was unstoppable.

Chris completed forty-one of the fifty miles.  He was exhausted and depleted when he finally decided he had done his very best and had no more to give.  With legs like Jell-O, he could barely get off the bike last year, but I could tell he knew he had accomplished something very special.  We all ride for kids like Chris and the UrbanTrekkers; they need our support, and that gives us our reason to ride.

Chris told me to count him in for fifty miles this year.  He said, "I'll be there. I'll see you in Ocean City, Mr. C!". Won't you join Chris, me and all the UrbanTrekkers for our fifth annual Pedal for Promise?  Ride with us on May 1 or support a Trekker on their fifty mile challenge to ride across the 34th Street Bridge into Ocean City.

You can now register and donate online at http://www.urbantrekkers.org/getinvolved_pfp.html

Peace, for there is joy in the journey,

Jim Cummings
Director of UrbanTrekkers

Tuesday, February 23

For the last four months six students who attend UrbanPromise after school program in South
Camden along with four mentors having been building two, full scale replicas of the sleds used by
North Polo explorers Matthew Henson and Robert Perry to reach the North Pole.

Students meet every Tuesday & Thursday afternoon with their mentors in the basement of the Camden
Seaport and Maritime Museum on Broadway in South Camden.   As the sleds take shape, the students are learning about power tools like saws, drill, jigs, steam boxes, and materials like dowels, wood glue, oak, hickory and steel.  (There is a statue of Matthew Henson in front of the museum because part of the church fellowship hall was built with ballast stones from the Kite one of the ships used by Henson and Perry to sail to Baffin Bay off the coast of Greenland to make their assault on the North Pole.)

In early March, the students and mentors will join an experienced sled dog owner and musher, to hitch a team of 7 dogs to the sleds and run them across the snow.  Who could imagine that young people of South Camden would be engaged in such a courageous adventure enjoy this journey, not to the North Pole but to a place of learning, understanding, mutual encouragement and great fun.

Students will be meeting on Tuesday & Thursday afternoons from 3:30-5:30pm throughout February to complete the building of the sleds.

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