Blog: June 2016
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been bombarded with Facebook messages, texts, phone calls, and drop-ins by camp kids, StreetLeaders, and parents, all with one question: “Were the letters sent?” StreetLeader selection is one of the toughest responsibilities that Jacob Rodriguez and his team face each summer. They must narrow the selection to only 80 teens, when well over 300 are desperately hoping to be hired. Their decisions are mailed to teens in two letters: “Congratulations, you’re hired!” or “Thank you for applying for the StreetLeader Program. You are on the wait list.” With an extraordinary number of applicants this spring, we placed the majority of teens who applied made the wait list.
StreetLeader Director, Jacob Rodriguez knows how much this job means to them first-hand: as it made the difference in his life. “It doesn’t take much,” he says in speaking of the opportunity the program provides for Camden teens, “and it’s not the money that does it; it’s belonging to something bigger and better than themselves. It’s about making a change in our city.”
Desperate to include more teens in the program, Jacob reworked the budgeted StreetLeader compensation as a stipend. By reducing the StreetLeader wages, he was able to hire 20 more teens without increasing the budget. And our teens don’t mind having their wages cut to make room for others. According to veteran, second-generation StreetLeader CJ, “It’s not about the money. It never was. It’s about the opportunity. I’m happy more of my peers will be able to be in the program, and we’ll be able to impact more kids this summer.”
On Thursday, Jacob got the go-ahead for his plan. With a big smile, he made a bee-line to his office to contact 20 more kids with the good news that they will be StreetLeaders this summer. That evening, my Facebook feed and texts were full of good news: “I got the job!” “Praise God, my baby got hired!” “Thank you, UrbanPromise! This will be the best summer ever!”
Please consider making an immediate donation—we need your help to keep these 120 teens employed this summer. Please help me raise the $30,000 as we still need it to support these StreetLeaders!
I promise the StreetLeaders will give their all to the almost 500 Camden children who will attend our camps this summer. Every StreetLeader mentors, tutors, and cares for five children, so your gift of one StreetLeader stipend will directly impact a six young lives.
Thank you. Together, we are changing Camden into a city of promise, one child at a time.
SPOILER ALERT: We won the GOLD!!
It was a great day for racing dragon boats down the Schuylkill River and our group was ready.
We had practiced both on the Schuylkill River and the Cooper River. Our team was made up of a wide range of paddlers. Some of us were just learning how to paddle and how to be comfortable in a boat (over water). Some of us were still getting used to the idea of being over the water in a boat that moves. At the start of each practice, we were paddling out of sync and wondering if we would be able to compete at all. But with great coaching, at the end of each practice, we were able to stroke together and get down the river with some real power. There was a hope building within us.
Have you ever won a gold medal? Most of us on our team had not. In fact, a lot of our team didn't believe we even could and wanted to aim for the seemingly attainable third place bronze. "It's still a medal!" some said. The leaders had to talk us up; they had to point us to first place. "Push", they said. "Push for two minutes, focus on giving it your all for those two minutes". Some never made it to believing, but they were willing to try. They thought they could do it for at least two minutes.
After two races that were good, we were in the final race, the race for a medal, the race for GOLD!! Getting a win could change a life (Maybe that's too dramatic. But maybe it's actually not?). To move from hoping or just kind of believing to celebrating a win and feeling the fulfillment of your hope as a reality is a huge leap. An experience like that gives you reason to hope a little more next time--after all, you weren't just hoping this time, it became a reality! Things that previously seemed hopeless, now glimmer with a little bit of hope--all because we did it, we won gold.
The team spirit could not have been higher. In fact, the students are planning on getting together enough students to have a youth team.