"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.
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)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.