Blog: 2012

Wednesday, December 26

Partner with UrbanPromise and the Camden community for our upcoming Martin Luther King Day of Service! 

Last year over 300 children, teens, and adults from the South Jersey area participated in our 2012 MLK Day of Service. We’re hoping for an even greater turnout on Monday, January 21 and to engage in a wider variety of projects—a Camden park cleanup, an art project for the community of Newtown, CT, and several collections for local residents. 

But we need your help to pull it off! 

Consider joining us on January 21 and/or sponsoring our service projects by donating the following: 

Art Supplies - To create “art of hope” for the community of Newtown, CT and children in local shelters and hospitals:

- 150 sheets of 11x17 copy paper
2 rolls of contact paper
- Candy molds
- Construction paper
- Markers, crayons, glue
- Cellophane                              
- 10 boxes of colored pencils              
- 25 pieces of poster board
- 5 rolls of duct tape                                     
- (25) 18x24 stretched canvases
- 130 plain colored t-shirts        
- 65 small condiment containers

Food & Drinks - To nourish and energize our MLK Day participants: 
-10 lbs. of sliced turkey and cheese
- 20 loaves of bread            
- 200 small bag of chips                          
- 200 granola bars (no nuts please!)
- 4 cases of apples        
- 50 cases of water                                            
- 5 containers of hot chocolate
- 4 lbs. of coffee
- 2 boxes of tea bags   
Outdoor Work Supplies – To clean Camden-area parks and streets:
- 5 boxes of contractor bags
- 25 pair of work gloves
- 5 wheelbarrows          
- 10 rakes    
- 1 lawnmower
- 1 leaf blower
- 1 weed wacker                                                                                   
Collection Drive Donations – To provide families in need with the following necessities: 
- Pajamas (infant – 5T)
- Soap, shampoo, related bathroom items    
- Small toys      
- Blankets (infant – adult)
Monetary Donations for Awards – To recognize youth winners of our MLK Day poster contest and “servant leader” awards (an estimated $1,500 is needed to honor all awardees).
Martin Luther King Day of Service will be held at UrbanPromise on Monday, January 21 from 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. 
For more information on donating or becoming further involved, please contact Jennifer Giordano at (856) 382-1864 or
Monday, December 24

"How can I be sure of this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years." (Luke 1:18) 

On a recent Friday afternoon, a 15-year-old UrbanPromise Academy student passed by me in the hallway. It was about 3:15 p.m. and school had finished for the day. 
I had forgotten her name, but not her story. A year ago, her mother—desperate for an alternative educational option for her daughter—had enrolled the young woman at our high school. It was her last chance; truancy, lack of motivation, and the wrong friends had led her down the wrong path. 
I wasn’t sure she wanted to chat, but I tried to make conversation anyway. “So, what do have you planned for the weekend?" I asked.
I have to admit, I didn’t expect much of a response. But, to my surprise, she paused, turned, and said: “Oh, I’ll be here at school all weekend. Our robotics teamis getting ready for our first competition on Sunday. We’ve got a lot of work to do!”

I blinked and tried to jog my memory. Robotics team? Was I talking to the same girl who, less than a year ago, would hardly say hello, crack a smile, or reveal a hint of happiness—much less be at school on a weekend? Over her year at UrbanPromise, her apathy had been replaced with vibrancy. Where was this enthusiasm and zest for life coming from?
Enter Dr. Cortney Bolden, UrbanPromise Academy’s new high school science teacher who’s inspiring a new generation of youth to develop a passion for science—and in doing so, is rediscovering her own self-worth.

Starting in September, Cortney made a major life change. With a Ph.D. from North Carolina A&T State University and years of experience as an engineer, she left her high-paying, secure job and began teaching at UrbanPromise. Since her first day, she’s infused her classroom with an enthusiasm for science and her vibrant faith. She also started the school’s robotics team—something our youth have never experienced before. Cortney’s passion is so infectious that students now want to spend their weekends building robots and learning mechanical functions. I see new life in their eyes. 

Cortney came to UrbanPromise because God touched her heart; she felt called to educate and inspire urban youth. She said yes to God.

According to the Gospel of Luke, the Christmas story actually began with the angel Gabriel's promise to Elizabeth and Zachariah, a couple well beyond childbearing years. The two had never been able to have children—and didn’t think it possible at their elderly age. 

But Gabriel spoke to them. And nine months later, an infant of joy, John, appeared in an unsuspecting world. A barren woman—well beyond her fertile years—gave birth to John the Baptist, who would go on to lead men and women out of lives of debilitating barrenness toward the Savior of the world. Nothing is impossible with God, the Gospel proclaims.
And then, even more miraculously, in a nearly empty, desolate stable, Jesus was born to a virgin, Mary. The miracle of Christmas began in a barren womb and a barren place. 
The unifying thread tying each of these stories together is this: God’s hope, love, and life were birthed into the world when someone said yes. Elizabeth said yes. Mary said yes. Cortney said yes. When ordinary people say yes to God, He rejoices and creates a new life with meaning and hope. 
This past year I’ve witnessed life returning to desolate and forgotten neighborhoods in Trenton, Miami, and Vancouver. In Malawian, Ugandan, and Honduran villages I have witnessed the birthing of schools, summer camps, and feeding programs that are changing the way kids see their lives and futures.  
All of this is happening because people are saying yes to God, embodying the presence of Christ, and believing that the Christmas miracle can happen.
Your prayers, encouragement, and resources are the ingredients that enable our community to serve those barren places and lost souls. I am grateful for your generous prayers and gifts this Christmas season and throughout the year.
Bruce Main
President & Founder, UrbanPromise
P.S. Below is a copy of Dr. Bolden's wish list for the robotics team if you'd like to help!  


  • Large tool chest on wheels
  • Wrench (open end / box end), 5/16"
  • Wrench (open end / box end), 1/4"
  • Hacksaw, 32 tooth blade
  • Hand files (flat and round)
  • Sheets of plexiglas (24 x 24 inches)
  • Heat gun
  • Electrical tape
  • Soldering iron
  • Drill
  • Jigsaw
  • Extra vise grip
  • Allen wrench, 7/64”
  • Allen wrench, 1/8”

For more information about the robotics team wish list please contact Dr. Cortney Bolden, UrbanPromise Academy comprehensive science teacher, at (856) 382-1230 or  

Friday, December 21

A big THANK YOU to Association Headquarters for hosting an awesome Christmas party at their office for UrbanPromise's Camp Freedom AfterSchool Program.  We are blessed by your partnership!  

Wednesday, December 19

UrbanPromise is excited to share that we've received a $1,000 grant from the Dermody Properties Foundation for our Emergency Family Fund! This award will help us provide financial assistance to families in need, particularly around this holiday season. Learn more about donating to our youth and families and the giving efforts of Dermody Properties.

Thank you, Dermody Properties!

Monday, December 17

Last year, 44 students—around one fourth of our student population—nearly withdrew from UrbanPromise schools because they were unable to pay tuition.  Behind each of those 44 instances was a child whose family was experiencing some kind of financial crisis—due to a lost job, a father who had died, a grandmother who could no longer help with the bills, or a parent who relapsed. 

Behind each of those stories was a child who loved school at UrbanPromise, who counted on staff to teach and empower, and who had no fears of being made fun of or bullied. Even though the families of those 44 students could not afford a portion of their tuition, each child was able to remain at UrbanPromise. That wouldn’t have been possible without your support.
Because of your gift to our Emergency Family Fund, which offers financial assistance to families in need, UrbanPromise has been able to help pay students’ tuition, provide for basic necessities, and enable families to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas season.
When I came back to work at UrbanPromise in 2010, that year’s kindergarten class—now 2nd graders—instantly became my favorite. The stories of each of the 18 students moved me and created a bond between us. By the time they arrived at UrbanPromise—at just five or six years of age—many had already experienced more incidents of personal trauma than most individuals will in a lifetime. But despite it all, they came running to school each day, excited to learn and spend time together, hugging and encouraging one another when they had a bad morning.
I mention these 18 students because the Emergency Family Fund has helped more than half of them remain in school over the past two and a half years. Support by donors like you has provided them with a structured and loving learning environment, even if their home situation is less than stable. 
I hope you’ll continue to aid in their development and ensure they are cared for and loved at UrbanPromise for years to come. Now more than ever—and especially during this Christmas season—a gift to the Emergency Family Fund will make a particularly significant impact in the lives of our youth.
Thank you for blessing our young people and families this holiday and throughout the year. 
P.S. If you are interested in sponsoring a specific family in need please contact Jodina Hicks, Executive Director, at or (856) 382-1851.


Thursday, November 29

On November 20, UrbanPromise staff and interns volunteered their time in Tom's River, NJ, aiding Samaritan's Purse, an international relief organization, with Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts. A total of 28 volunteers helped a local homeowner clear insulation from a flooded crawl space. According to staff, he was brought to tears with all of UrbanPromise's help. UrbanPromise intends to continue helping with hurricane recovery in the coming months.

Tuesday, November 27

Just two months ago Diane Sawyer visited UrbanPromise in Camden and spoke at our 25th Anniversary Banquet. It was an inspirational, moving—and fun—night, made all the more special by her warm and welcoming presence.

According to Ms. Sawyer’s inner circle, she seldom speaks at these kinds of events. She’s busy and careful about whom she aligns herself with. I was incredibly honored that, in the midst of a very hectic television season, she kept her promise to our community.

But Ms. Sawyer did more than just speak during the evening’s program. She arrived two hours early to interact with guests and enjoy a meal with the children and families featured in her 2007 20/20 special “Waiting on the World to Change.”

While eating dinner, she asked each child very direct and personalized questions. I found this remarkable! What books had they read since their last meeting? How were their grades? What did they think about the current political situation? She approached their conversations as if they were part of a high profile interview. 

But what impacted me most deeply about Diane Sawyer’s visit is that she remembered our young people. It was obvious that this was not just another news story. She cares about the kind of people our children are becoming. And her concern, interest, and commitment continue to influence their lives.

Ivan Stevens, who was homeless when featured on 20/20, is now in 5th grade at our school and watches ABC World News every weekday evening. “He won’t let anyone near the remote,” shares his mother Precious. “Everyone in our house watches the news with Ms. Sawyer. Ivan is becoming an expert of world affairs.” He calls the show’s anchor his “friend.”

Like Diane Sawyer, I hope you will remember the children of UrbanPromise.

Since your first gift to our organization, our team has faithfully protected, educated, and loved Camden’s most vulnerable children. We’ve provided creative, structured, and academically enriching programs that keep young people off the dangerous city streets. 

But it costs money to remember. Fuel is needed to run the vans that transport our youth to and from home, insurance needs to be current, and salaries need to be paid. Remembering can be expensive.

In honor of Ms. Sawyer’s visit to UrbanPromise, I hope you’ll donate a year-end gift to our ministry.

Consider sponsoring a:

  • Child – Just $30/month ($360/year) provides a Camden child with free after-school and summer camp programming.
  • Teen – A donation of $42/month ($504/year) provides a teen with year-round hands-on job training and academic enrichment.
  • Student – By partnering with a student for $208/month ($2,500/year), you’ll enable UrbanPromise to offer high-quality education in a structured and loving environment.
  • Trekker – A monthly donation of $150, or an annual gift of $1,800, enables UrbanPromise to provide youth with experiential and expeditionary trips at little to no cost to them.

Thank you for remembering. Have a blessed holiday season.

Bruce Main
UrbanPromise President & Founder

P.S. Check out the recent cover story about Diane Sawyer and UrbanPromise in SJ Magazine and the video of this year's banquet!

Sunday, November 25

Over 110 volunteers joined UrbanPromise on Saturday, November 17 to assist with demolition and renovation projects at St. Wilfrid's Episcopal Church in the city of Camden. Volunteers included adults, teens, and children from Ann's Love Builds of Media Presbyterian Church, FCA of South Jersey, Pedro Guzman of San Andres in Camden, the Presbyterian Church of Chatham Township, and Princeton University's lacrosse team. The group gutted the church's house, painted the church, cleaned the yard and trimmed bushes, and fixed broken windows and old pews.

The house on the St. Wilfrid's property, which has been generously donated to UrbanPromise, saw 750 hours of service--which amounts to around $10,000 in work hours saved! Ninety-percent of the work was finished by noon that Saturday! Phyllis B. Jones, chief financial officer of the Diocese of New Jersey, and Norman Valentine of St. Wilfrid's pass along a special thank-you to all those who spent the day helping the church and UrbanPromise.

But a lot of work still needs to be done. We hope you join us for upcoming UrbanPromise Work Day's on December 1, January 26, February 23, March 23, April 27, May 25 or June 22. Email Marcus Bell for more information:

Watch video of the day from the Courier Post and check out pictures from the day on Flickr.

Tuesday, November 20

UrbanPromise's October Big Read program was a success! Thank you to the National Endowment for the Arts and Arts Midwest for supporting our reading and literacy efforts in Camden and Pennsauken and our partners: EducationWorks, Camden County Library System, Rutgers-Camden's Paul Robeson Library, Pennsauken Free Public Library, BuildaBridge International.

Watch our Big Read video with highlights from the month.  


The Big Read from UrbanPromise on Vimeo.

Monday, November 19

Both UrbanPromise Camden and UrbanPromise Trenton learned Friday that they've each received a $25,000 grant from the New Jersey Office of Faith-Based Initiatives! Camden's funding will allow our StreetLeader job training program to expand its college prep activities.


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