May 22nd 2017
My favorite scripture is Hebrews 11. I love this scripture because it recounts God’s promises to, and through, people of faith. And each time I look back on my life and recount what God has accomplished, I see His promises have held true, even during the hardest of times… the suicide of my grandfather, the homicide of my fiancée. Yet this scripture also sums up why my faith waivers: while I know that God is in every situation, I also know that life can be very painful.
Nothing shakes me like a teenager on the edge. I’m sure you have known young people with the world before them, full of potential, and yet they are involved in high-risk behavior and surround themselves with people who will bring them harm. In Camden, the consequences can be dire for teens who go through even short bouts of normal adolescent rebellion.
This reality is one reason I love the Trekker program. White water rafting, camping out solo on an island, mountain climbing, cliff diving, surfing – these are enormous gifts to give a searching, struggling teenager.
Faith Kroma came to UrbanPromise just a few years ago as a 9th grader. Describing herself as a Trekker by necessity (“my laugh is too loud and my legs are too long to be contained in a classroom”), Faith took on every Trekker challenge that Mr. C put before her. With the mind of a lawyer and the mindset of an adventurer, Faith charmed everyone she met with her charisma and zeal for life.
Yet over the next year, Faith started showing very concerning signs: sleeping in school, fighting with friends, being secretive, running away from home, missing Trekker trips, quitting the StreetLeader program. And then something interesting happened. Faith started being honest. Through discussions about childhood trauma with Nurse Becky, she started sharing some of the very high-risk choices she was making in her life outside of UrbanPromise. Ultimately, Faith found herself in a situation that could alter the rest of her life.
Scared, angry, and desperate, Faith agreed to go to Eagle Rock, a partner boarding school In Colorado that fully integrates experiential learning into its curriculum. She would be our first student at Eagle Rock, and not under the best circumstances. One of her first challenges at Eagle Rock was a 24-day sojourn in the woods. She survived. Then came classes, and she did well. But when it came time to settle into school, the issues she was running from returned. It wasn’t long before she was in deep trouble and was being sent home from Eagle Rock.
Mr. C and I met with school officials and Faith, and we negotiated a last-chance agreement. Faith would come back to UrbanPromise, engage in therapy and community service daily, and once Eagle Rock was convinced she was ready to come back, they would give her one last chance. That was a hard meeting, and I don’t think anyone was happy at the end of it, especially not Faith.
But she held up her end of the bargain. Faith came to UrbanPromise daily for 2 months. She was surrounded by a community that would not give up on her, and she had access to the tools to make different choices. That is what we do at UrbanPromise all day, every day. Not without hesitation, Eagle Rock invited her to return. This time, Faith was ready. She attributes her changed mindset to her work with UrbanPromise’s Wellness Group, reading Emotional Intelligence, and talking through her traumas. She also reconnected to her love of Trekking and earned the privilege of being a wilderness instructor, leading young people on their sojourns in Arizona.
Faith graduated from Eagle Rock during Holy Week in April – what fitting timing for her path to overcoming death and embracing new life! Looking back, it’s clear to see that the crossroads that Faith came to, the choices she made, the tools she employed, and the community that supported her have prepared Faith for life.
Faith has amazing dreams for her life. She’s currently preparing to move to South Africa to attend university in Johannesburg. Following this, she plans to teach in the Liberian village where her father was born.
I am proud of Faith, and I am proud of the community that came together to support her, a community that never gives up on our children, a community that does not allow teens to throw their lives away. A community that includes you – thank you for investing in our community.
As I write, UrbanPromise is facing challenging financial times. We need your help to keep engaging young people like Faith and employing caring staff who can help them navigate the challenges that life presents. Please consider sponsoring a child, a StreetLeader, or a student at UrbanPromise. I promise that our team at UrbanPromise will persist in loving, supporting, challenging, and equipping our Camden youth…because we need more Faith in this world.