Blog: March 2011

Wednesday, March 30

Step-Team on NBC

Sunday, March 27


Every day Josh runs to Camp Spirit AfterSchool Program and does his homework with a positive attitude and exemplary behavior.

With his great attendance, good behavior and grade improvement he collects reward points.

After earning enough points Josh will be able to travel with his UrbanPromise AfterSchool Program to Washington D.C. and Williamsburg, Va. Josh and his friends will visit museum’s, explore the Luray Cavern’s, go whitewater rafting, spend a day hiking at Monticello and create unbelievable memories.


“I can’t wait till spring break! I’ve earned a seat on the big yellow UrbanPromise bus,” Josh shouts as he proudly jumps up and down.

By contrast the sad worry for the other children and teens left in Camden this Spring Break is bullets and violence.

As many of you have followed the news the last two months, over 163 police officers already have been laid off in the City’s efforts to plug a $14,000,000 budget deficit. Camden will have its smallest police department since 1949.nyt_eb

Since the cuts, indicators show increased violent crime--30 shootings already this year, versus 16 shootings at this time last year. Aggravated assaults have risen from 76 to 130 as of the end of February. Unfortunately cutting the police force in half has led to an almost doubling in crime.

So the safe place for our UrbanPromise children this Spring Break is not the streets of East, North and South Camden. The safe place for children will be in one of UrbanPromise’s Learning Adventures.

The staff is currently preparing a series of trips for as many children as you and others can

possibly underwrite. Trips for the various groups are scheduled for Washington, Philadelphia, Virginia and North Carolina. The groups will stay in tents, on church floors or in some welcoming homes along the way.

They will be low budget trips with a great impact on each young life.

During this critical season in the life of our City and the vulnerable children, I ask you to underwrite one child, one meal, one tank of gas or more.

Not only will you help one or several children to be off the dangerous streets and out of the city, you’ll invest in their spiritual, emotional and intellectual life as well.

Dr. Bruce Main

P.S. I’ll be sure to send you an update on all the children’s excitement trip and life-changing adventures.

Donate Online

Saturday, March 26

The Elite Team after their first road session of 12 miles.

On May 7, the UrbanPromise Elite Cycling Team will make there debut ride in the Pedal For Promise.  The Elite Cycling Team is made up of a group of 11 students from UrbanPromise Academy who have committed to train every Sunday afternoon in preparation for the 50-mile ride.  (A number of other students and staff will be participating in the 22 and 13-mile rides.)

We thought you would be encouraged by the following story from one of our students on the UrbanPromise Elite Cycling Team:

“When I used to see those silly looking people at Cooper River Park in those tight fitting uniforms all hunched over their bikes I never in all my life imagined I would become one of them - I thought they looked creepy. After three sessions of classroom orientation I’m going to get on the road today. I’m miles away from home in this place called the Jersey Pines and there isn’t much that looks familiar. The whole idea of riding a bike as part of a team sounds as silly as those spandex suits. My classmates and I are going to become a team, the UrbanPromise Academy (UPA) Elite Cyclers. Eleven of us have signed on to ride in the 50 mile Pedal for Promise fund raiser set for May 7th.

This will require commitment and lots of hard work and learning to speak a new language. The coaches use words like cadence, attack, drafting and breaking away; what are they talking about? We practice every Sunday afternoon after attending church with our coaches. You could join us or even better check us out on May 7th in our UPA Elite Team spandex uniforms. We look forward to sharing the rode with all of you!”

Tuesday, March 22

Sometimes you don’t have to physically cross a road to cross a road—you cross with your heart.

In early December Ms. Baker—the principal of our elementary school—told a story about a 12 year old boy in Malawi, Africa named Harold. Harold attends an AfterSchool program in Lilongwe that UrbanPromise started a few years ago.

Ms. Baker shared how 12 year old Harold begins each day early in the morning. He puts on his few tattered clothes, gathers his water buckets and walks down a dirt road to a small well.

With rapt attention from the children, Ms. Baker continued to describe how Harold, then waters and tends to his grandfather’s small garden plot of land.  After finishing the hoeing, Harold leaves his village to collect firewood for cooking. Returning with his small bundle of sticks, he cooks breakfast for his four siblings, cleans up and begins his walk to school.

“Harold was an orphan because his parents died when he was only five months old.  Fortunately, his aunt took him in along with his little brothers and sisters—soon thereafter his aunt, who had been ill, died.  The children then had to stay with their 70 year old grandfather, who was, like most people in his village, decrepit and weak, and in no condition to care for them.  Harold became the primary care giver for a family of six—plus a few stray cousins.”

By the time Ms. Baker finished telling how it cost 82 cents a day to feed Harold and his brothers and sisters, the children were deeply moved and some wiped tears.

“What can we do to help Harold?” called out eight year old Josiah, frantically waving from the back of the auditorium. Another student chimed in, “Yea, Ms. Baker, we gotta help Harold!”

Principal Baker waved in front of the children an empty soda bottle. “Here’s an idea,” she said. “Let’s all bring our nickels, dimes and quarters tomorrow and fill this bottle—for Harold!”

The next day, Ms. Baker’s students showed up with pocket’s full of change. They plunked their pennies and dimes into their bottles.

Later that morning one parent stopped Ms. Baker in the hall and asked:  “Who’s this Harold person?”  Before Ms. Baker could respond the parent added, “All my son wants to do is help some boy named Harold—all my spare change is disappearing,” she said with pretend annoyance.

None of our UrbanPromise teachers and staff could have imagined what would happen next.

The seventh graders started to compete with the sixth graders and began bragging about who had collected the most change for Harold.  Other classes jumped in on the action. The children started counting their coins each morning, posting their new totals on chalk boards. Everyone loved the competition.

In the end our children raised over $600 dollars—more than the average Malawian makes in a year!

Many people picture inner city kids and teens as cold, tough, and indifferent. Many also believe that children in Camden are too poor to help others.

My experience is different.

The children of UrbanPromise let their hearts cross a road. This is how road crossing often begins—it begins by allowing our hearts to feel the pain of another person. And when our children felt Harold’s pain, they were compelled to act. Indifference was not an option. This is what happens when we dare to cross roads.

In January I had the chance to travel to Malawi to visit Harold. I visited his hut. I listened to his story. I got to see his school. Most importantly I was able to report back, first hand, to the children of UrbanPromise how their generosity made a difference for Harold.

But Harold is not the only person changed through this road crossing event. A group of children from Camden now have a friend in Malawi. They have become bigger people. Their hearts and world is larger. No longer do our students only see their own needs.

This is the fruit of crossing the road.

Friday, March 18

What does a sixty-one year old grandmother, living and working in the city of Camden, have in common with a 20 year old sophomore from The College of William and Mary?

Some people might think—not much.  This past week Kelly Ann, a History and Secondary Education major was partnered with Tina Thomas—a teacher’s assistant at our CamdenForward School—to provide supervision for our Kindergarten Class.

Prior to last Monday, Kelly Ann and Ms. Thomas had never met.  Their worlds are completely different.  Kelly Ann spends the bulk of each day taking lecture notes, going to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Meetings, and roaming the bucolic grounds of her campus.  In coming weeks, Kelly will to wade through the angst of deciding on whether she should do a summer internship in educational research, travel the globe, or get a part-time job to raise a little extra cash.

Ms. Thomas arrives at the CamdenForward School early in the morning and is greeted by wide-eyed, energetic, demanding 5 year olds.  It’s tiring work. On lunch break Ms. Thomas ponders how to stretch her pay check to cover her bills.

Different women.  Different stories.  Different vocations. Radically different lives.

But this past week Kelly Ann and Ms. Thomas crossed a road.  Two strangers became friends.

“I’ve been in awe of the love Ms. Thomas shows these kids,” shared Kelly Ann.  “I’m a little out of my comfort zone.  But Ms. Thomas took me under her wing.”

When asked the highlight of her week, Kelly Ann responds:  “My conversations with Ms. Thomas have been terrific.  She has so much wisdom to share with me.  And just watching her work—she has high expectations for the children.  She’s invested in their potential.  I’m leaving with a new outlook on education, on the city, and on how faith can impact our work.”

“Kelly Ann was really bothered that some of the children did not have snacks, or much to eat at lunch,” began Ms. Thomas.  “Kelly asked if she could bring some apples to class.  I said, ‘Absolutely.’”

With grandmotherly affection, Ms. Thomas continues, “I just told her to put the apples in some of the kid’s lunch bags without them knowing.  She enjoyed doing that.”    “I wish she didn’t have to go back to school,” smiles Ms. Thomas.  “She really has encouraged me.  She’s a special young woman.”

So Kelly Ann and Ms. Thomas will go their different ways—perhaps never seeing each other again.  Yet they separate as different people—different because they have traces of the “other” in their minds and hearts.

Sunday, March 13

Consider volunteering your time to change the life of a child...


Cut backs in the Camden police force coupled with inferior public schools make this a critical time for the future of Camden's hard working youth.

We are in need of people willing to help tutor children from grades K-8.  Our AfterSchool Program kids, who mostly attend underperforming Camden schools, would thrive with the opportunity to receive one on one tutoring from an individual who is willing to come once a month, once a week or even daily! All you need is the ability to love coupled with a desire to make a difference and you will help a child be a success!

Our youth are in need of people to help with: math and language arts homework, practice multiplication facts with flash cards, reading partners and much more.

We would love the opportunity to introduce you to our amazing program and kids.

UrbanPromise AfterSchool Program Facts:

  • 280 children and teens attend daily
  • Programs are free of charge to all youth
  • Grades 1st-8th
  • Located in five locations throughout the city of Camden
  • Programs run Monday-Thursday, 3:30-6pm

Examples of students with specific needs:

  • Angelina (Lu Lu), Does a really great job with reading and writing but when it comes to her math skills she quickly loses confidence.
  • Monee needs help in reading
  • Jackie has a wildly creative imagination but has dificulty articulating it in her school work.
  • Joshua, Ozzy and Xavier: all three boys are struggling with their reading skills and beginning to fall through the cracks in school.

Other opportunities for volunteers in our AfterSchool Programs:

  • Bring a snack for 40 kids and teens.  Cook a big pot of soup, spaghetti, fruit trays, vegetable and dip trays, pizza, etc.
  • We are always looking for people to help with homework, reading partners, multiplication or other math flash card/drills.
  • Consider leading a craft project for the day.

Take action: Volunteer
Click here for more information on the volunteer process and application
Click here for other volunteer opportunites at UrbanPromise.

Do you have safety concerns?

Please give Susan Wilhelm, our volunteer coordinator a call or email to discuss your concerns.  Susan will give you more information about volunteer opportunities, tell you more about the neighborhoods our programs are located in and much more.

Potential volunteers are encouraged to schedule a time to come visit the program they are interested in during program hours.  Potential volunteers would meet at our main campus (click here for directions) with Susan and then travel together to the program you are interested in working with.  You will have the opportunity to meet the program director and youth.  Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to serve.  Call today!

Contact Susan Wilhelm at (856) 382-1865 or

Sunday, March 13
Wednesday, March 2

From September – January of this year, UPA juniors and seniors participated in a course on leadership, called “Servant Leadership”. During the 6-month course, students explored servant leader attributes; techniques; and examples. They kept journals with their reflections and attempts to display servant-leadership, and they role played characteristics, such as empathy.

The culmination of the course was to complete a leadership project that combined at least 4 servant-leader attributes. Projects included the design of a community mural; a white paper to the Governor’s office on Education Reform; a community mapping survey; and leading a school assembly for K-8th graders. The Holman family generously allowed the 20 students to present their final projects in their BMW dealership conference room. The setting provided a high standard and Donald Trump-like setting for the students….but now all of our students want to own a BMW in the future!

Wednesday, March 2

CFS at the Orchestra

On Saturday, February 5, sixteen students, parents and staff from the UrbanPromise were treated to a morning concert at the Kimmel Center featuring the Philadelphia Orchestra performing a Children’s Concert.  This was made possible through the generosity of the American Association of University Women.

They attended a pre-concert educational event which explored the musical aspects of tempo and dynamics.  The children listened attentively as these ideas were presented in a fun and interactive way.

During the pause, they visited the Dorrance Rooftop Garden and enjoyed the views of the city and also those patrons below in the foyer who “looked just like ants!”

The concert by the Fabulous Philadelphians featured narrator Jamie Bernstein, daughter of composer Leonard Bernstein.  With Ms. Bernstein, the students further explored tempo and dynamics with the entire orchestra performing works of Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky and Mahler.

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