Blog: July 2021
There was no place to park my car as I pulled up to UrbanPromise last Wednesday. Finally I landed a spot next to the dumpster at the end of Rudderow Street (hoping trash pickup was Thursday and not later that day).
I have no issues surrendering a convenient parking spot for a worthy cause. Today’s forfeit was well worth the extra block hike—in 90 degree heat—to my air-conditioned office.
You see, the upper parking lot at UrbanPromise is often sequestered by our program staff for special events. Three-on-three basketball tournaments, community fairs, and our Thanksgiving Turkey Bowl. Today: our annual Summer Camp Carnival.
This is no ordinary carnival. Our staff and volunteers take “home-made” and “low budget” to a whole new level. Every year I’m amazed at the creative uses of recycled cardboard boxes, discarded plywood, poster paint and junk from the remote corners of the campus storage closet.
Summer Camp Carnival may not rival the technology and special effects of Six Flags or Disney World, but if laughter and smiles are happiness indicators, this event beats the best of the theme parks.
“It’s just good old-fashion fun,” claims Camp Peace Site Director Derrick Sondrini. “Kids love the simplicity of it all. It’s like turning the clocks back to a more innocent time. Sure it’s a little corny. But the kids feel the love.”
And that’s a big part of our mission at UrbanPromise. We want to get back to the basics of what’s important for children—fun, safety, human connection, belonging, laughter and being in the presence of adults who care. We want to show kids that, with a little imagination and hard work, you can transform an empty park lot and a pile of junk into a festival.
And this is what you—our partners—helped create for 200 children, 50 teens, 20 medical student volunteers from Rowan University and our summer team of counselors and staff. You created a joy-filled memory in a year marred with isolation, despair and disconnecting. For that I’ll give up my parking space….every day.
Founder & President
PS. Check out the short video to see the Carnival in action: https://vimeo.com/578241926
I peeked through the door, looked down the hallway and witnessed a sight that fills me with joy.
Small tables. Two chairs at each. Occupied.
Each “make-shift” station held a student and an adult volunteer—hunched over a text book, focused on the material at hand, quietly dialoging—absorbed in the process of learning. I never tire of witnessing this kind of event.
It’s UrbanPromise Summer School 2021. Needed this year more than ever. Nothing fancy—just good old fashion, one-on-one, hard work.
“Some of our students lost significant academic ground this past year,” revealed Terry Bullock, our elementary school principal. “Our hope is to get them back on track. It’s patient work. It’s happening. Little victories each day.”
Getting students back to grade level is no easy task. There’s no computer chip to make up the loss, no fancy video series, no magic bullets. It’s a process of moving backwards before moving forward. It’s mobilizing enough caring adults to give our young people the kind of individualized attention needed to reclaim lost ground.
That’s why school is happening in our hallways and classrooms this summer. Alphabets, time tables, pronouns and sentence structure—whatever is needed to get our students to the next mile marker—is being reviewed and mastered.
This is what UrbanPromise does best. We’re a mission driven community, willing to travel the extra mile, ensuring no child is left behind.
None of this happens without you—our partners. Once again, your generous support is allowing this important work to continue.
Founder & President
Would you take a summer job on a boat if you couldn't swim?
For most of us, the answer is no way. But at UrbanPromise we encourage kids to try new things, try hard things, try things we never imagined we could do.
When Carina applied for a StreetLeader job with our celebrated RiverGuides program, she knew she couldn’t swim. A friend had prodded her to apply so they could both spend the summer getting paid to guide tours down the Tidal Cooper River. Once she realized she would have to go through the rigorous training program and learn to properly paddle, steer the canoe and (gulp)...swim, she didn’t back down.
Days in the local swimming pool culminated in a jump into the deep end - has there ever been a better metaphor for facing life’s challenges? Carina jumped.
Surrounded by caring and supportive UrbanPromise staff, Carina emerged from the pool to applause, grinning ear to ear. A mere three days later she spent the day on the river, intentionally capsizing her canoe to practice rescue techniques. This summer, she will proudly wear a t-shirt that says CREW on the back. If you haven’t been given a tour of the river yet, you are missing out.
Carina won’t be the only kid trying something new this summer. 54 teens will be employed at UrbanPromise, in either our StreetLeader or RiverGuide Programs, and for many it will be their first job, first paycheck, first adult responsibility.
There will be many firsts for our young people this summer at UrbanPromise. Some will try a practice test for the SAT for the first time. Some will learn to ride a bike. Some will tour local corporations and get exposure to potential future careers. Some will open their first checking account. Some will try yoga. Some will walk over the Ben Franklin Bridge. Have you tried that yet?
To say we are excited to welcome back hundreds of kids to our summer camps is a wild understatement.