Eighteen years ago, UrbanPromise responded to Camden’s growing educational crisis by opening the CamdenForward School and the UrbanPromise Academy. For more than a decade, UrbanPromise had been operating afterschool programs, summer camps, and a teen development program. It was clear that families participating in these programs needed more support. They were struggling to find good educational options--children were falling behind academically and youth were dropping out of high school in alarming numbers. The CamdenForward School and UrbanPromise Academy were created to help meet those needs. The CamdenForward School (CFS) started with around 30 students in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten with a vision to provide an excellent, affordable, and Christian early education for children in the Camden area. The school went on to add a grade each year until its first graduating class completed 8th grade in 2006. For the last six years, the school has been led by Denise Baker and now serves up to 150 students from kindergarten to 8th grade.
The school challenges students to attain high academic standards, learn necessary life skills, maintain personal integrity, and develop a Christian worldview. Music, dance, visual arts, and unique extracurricular learning opportunities (such as UrbanBoatWorks and SeaQuest) supplement the comprehensive academic curriculum. The UrbanPromise Academy (UPA) began with just 10 students in 10th and 11th grade. Originally targeting students who had dropped out of high school or were in danger of doing so, the school now serves a diverse group of up to 50 students from the Camden area. In 2006, the Academy moved from its cramped row-home to the new UrbanPromise Student Center, allowing the school to expand to its current size. The school is now led by Andy Joshua, an 18 year veteran with UrbanPromise. Focused on preparing students to succeed in college or in the workforce, the Academy currently boasts a 100 percent graduation rate and sees 90 percent of graduates enter college. With a low teacher-to-student ratio, a family-style learning environment, an emphasis on experiential and expeditionary learning, and a focus on college preparation, the UPA provides a unique and supportive learning environment.
The 2014-2015 school year saw several exciting new developments for both schools with the opening of the renovated Spirit building on our main campus. The Spirit building hosts a kitchen and cafeteria which has allowed the schools to offer breakfast and lunch to all their students. The building also has a beautifully renovated gym, literacy center, and technology lab all of which are used regularly by students at every grade level.