Blog: June 2012
By Lucas Murray
CAMDEN, NJ — A Christian outreach whose mission is to equip Camden’s children with academic and life skills is the recipient of dozens of computers from the federal government with the hopes of furthering that mission.
More than 40 desktop and laptop computers are being provided to the group by the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation division out of its Newark Field Office.
“As federal law enforcement officers, our main mission is to protect the citizens of our country,” said Special Agent in Charge Victor W. Lessoff. “Being able to donate these computers is very gratifying as we know they will be used as an investment in the educational and social experience for future leaders of our country.”
About 600 children and teens are part of UrbanPromise programs. The group involves city teenagers as StreetLeaders in tutoring, mentoring and coaching younger kids in the community. UrbanPromise sees involving teens in the leadership process as a way to create young visionary leaders intent on changing their communities.
Jodina Hicks, UrbanPromise Executive Director said currently some of the computers at the group’s sites do not function properly. “Due to this generous gift, children in our schools and after school programs throughout Camden will be better equipped to study, do research and further their learning about the world,” Hicks said.
Officials said the computers were used in IRS investigations. Their hard drives were wiped clean prior to delivery to UrbanPromise.
Written by Joe Conney
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.
“I never built a boat before,” said Noah Washington, a 12-year-old from Willingboro. “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.”