IN THE NEWS: Camden woman named 'New Jersey Hero' - Courier Post

New Jersey first lady Mary Pat Christie on Wednesday honored Jodina Hicks, executive director of UrbanPromise in Camden, as her second “New Jersey ­Hero” of 2014.

Through a series of programs and initiatives, Hicks works to provide at-risk children and young adults in the city with the tools necessary to succeed in life — from academic achievement and life management to spiritual growth and leadership skills. She is the 26th individual to be named a New Jersey Hero.

“I admire Jodina’s commitment in helping our youth realize their true life potential,” Christie said. “From her early contributions in getting the UrbanPromise organization off the ground to her return as the agency’s executive director, Jodina is shaping the next generation of young leaders who will ultimately represent change and pride in their community.”

Founded by Bruce Main in 1988, UrbanPromise has a 25 year history in Camden. The agency provides an array of programs that challenge youth to develop the skills they need to succeed in life through after-school and summer camps, two schools, job training, experiential learning, and a host of other initiatives. UrbanPromise serves approximately 640 children and teens from the Camden community each year.

“It's humbling and an honor for First Lady Mary Pat Christie to recognize UrbanPromise and me as a hero,” said Jodina Hicks. “The definition of a hero, someone who displays courage and self sacrifice in the face of adversity, is very fitting for the staff of UrbanPromise, the families of Camden, and most of all the youth of our city, who, despite tremendous obstacles and traumatic conditions are living their lives with courage and are transforming our community.”

During a twelve year span, Ms. Hicks helped to begin the organization’s adolescent programs, including the Street Leader Program, Urban Promise Academy, and numerous college preparation and performingarts activities. From 2000-2010, she developed youth development programs, faith-based initiatives, and corrections reform with Public/Private Ventures and the Safer Foundation. She returned to Camden in 2010 to serve as the agency’s executive director.

At UrbanPromise, nearly 100% of participating high school students graduate, with approximately 93% moving on to college. Nearly 85% of UrbanPromise alumni have graduated from an institution of higher educationtobecome doctors, teachers, social workers, child care workers and business owners. In addition, it is not unusual to have former UrbanPromise participants return to the organization as employees or volunteers, or to enroll their children in Urban Promise activities.

Written by Courier-Post