Blog: 19 June 2014
Employ a teen
When Bruce gave me the chance to design our high school ministry in 1994, I knew employment had to be at the center of what we would do.
UrbanPromise’s Senior Club was very popular back then, with over 120 teens coming weekly and sometimes daily to youth group and service projects. But most of the teens had dropped out of school, and many were selling drugs. These kids, with so much stacked against them, are forever imprinted in my heart and memory. They were thrust into adult roles and responsibilities, with little resources or help. Most of them did not have hope for a future different from what they saw around them, most did not believe they could get a job, and college was not in what they perceived as the realm of possibilities.
And yet, they had so much potential! Out of their realities and needs, the StreetLeader program was born.
Twenty years later, the same conditions exist. Annie, a senior in high school, works as a StreetLeader to pay her family’s utility bills. Recently, I overheard her telling a friend “It’s not that hard; all you need is a flashlight, bottled water, and a few blankets.” She was not talking about camping; she was talking about surviving without water, heat, and lights. She hadn’t been able to keep up with the bills. Dwayne, a junior in high school, is another motivated StreetLeader. He is charming, talented, kind, and an excellent student at Creative Arts High School. At 16 years old, Dwayne was emancipated after his mother and grandmother died. He is raising himself.
Some things haven’t changed much in 20 years.
But there is a crucial difference. Our young people have hope, and with hope come dreams and goals. Annie has known she will go to college since her sophomore year in high school. The question hasn’t been “if,” but “where.” She knows her life will be different, and she will not have the hardships that her parents have. She has tangible choices.
Dwayne is focused on becoming a professional dancer after he finishes college. He makes smart choices and chooses great friends, surrounding himself with people who help him through this time in his life.
These StreetLeaders know they can succeed because they have seen others do it.
The policewoman that covers the UrbanPromise area is a StreetLeader graduate, as is an East Camden fireman and Madelyn Caba, the manager of Staples. Arlene Wube, a Howard University alumna, business owner, and UrbanPromise board member, returns to meet our teens. Albert and Tony Vega, Mark Goode, Jacob Rodriguez, and Tyshema Lane are all StreetLeader alumni who work at UrbanPromise. These people have attended universities all over the country, and they’re investing in the lives of young people.
Providing meaningful alternatives to poverty and crime requires a significant financial investment. It costs $2,000/summer to employ a teen; $4,500 for the entire year. Since 1994, donors have invested in hiring 1,600 teens from Camden into the StreetLeader program. The program results are consistently high, with 100% of our StreetLeaders graduating from high school year after year, and over 90% going on to college. From the bottom of my heart, I thank these donors for the difference they have made in the lives of our young people.
This summer, our goal is to hire 90 teens! I hope you will help us. When you support a StreetLeader, you provide much more than a job. You make hope real, dreams possible, and a productive future attainable.
Thank you in advance for your generosity!
PS. I’d love for you to join me and a couple of our StreetLeaders. On July 1st and 2nd, we will be PADDLING for PROMISE, canoeing 50 miles down the Delaware River from Trenton to Wilmington to raise the funds to hire StreetLeaders this summer. To see how you can get involved, please visit www.urbanpromiseusa.org/paddle.