Growing up in Trenton, I didn’t understand why things were the way they were. Why we avoided the schools there growing up. Why the poorest parts of town had the most people that looked like us. So I know Camden even though I’m not from Camden.
As a kid in the 1980s, Camden, NJ was mentioned in the same hushed breath of Philadelphia; a city you passed through with alert eyes and locked car doors. The relationship with these cities, unfairly described by their high numbers of blacks, crime rates, and poverty, were the very definition of uncharitable during my youth; they were essentially urban leprosy, to be avoided at all cost.
The city’s continued slow, steady climb from a more turbulent past is a hallmark characteristic of a sign I see every day in my travels in Camden: “City Invincible”. There’s an undeniable resilience in the city that mirrors its residents; the idea that despite the struggles that could easily shackle Camden to its narrow narrative, the city pushes forward.
I love that about Camden and it’s what gives me hope about the moment where we’re at now. For the last three years we’ve experienced a literal Renaissance in the city. Under the leadership of a new superintendent, and host of new charter operators, Camden’s education scene has been complemented with a new infusion of talent committed to working with families, schools, and the community to ensure that what happens here lives on in service to families.
And that’s what I see my role as Deputy Director at JerseyCAN—to continue to pull us all together and play a role in our city connecting the pieces of a larger puzzle towards creating a legacy that we all can be proud of.
Embracing us all in a feeling of integrity, partnership, accountability and thoughtfulness. Change is always hard, and there will be the occasional threat to doing what’s right: political pressure, uneven progress, changing leadership.
But our north star is our legacy; our desire to do what’s right to make this a great city for our kids and families.
A city system of schools and choice guided by equity, community context and academic progress.
A city system of schools that we’ll all hold to a high bar to do right together.
A city invincible.