Program brings hope to inner-city


At age 15, Troy Johnson was on a downward academic slope, on his way to becoming another public school statistic. The ninth grader in Camden, N.J., showed up for school about every other day (if that), his grades were poor, and his attitude toward learning was negative. Troy was sinking quickly. Each day of missed classes accelerated his descent into the quicksand of low academic achievement, low self-esteem, and hopelessness.

That changed when UrbanPromise Ministries targeted Troy for its pilot “home school program” – the Urban Promise Academy – initiated last September. Founded by educator, author and evangelist Tony Campolo, UrbanPromise provides programs for hundreds of inner-city children and teens, helping them develop the skills necessary for academic achievement, life management, spiritual growth, and Christian leadership. The new “home school program” is an effort to target teens who are slipping through the cracks of the public school system and to keep them from ending up on the streets.

“We’ve all seen the problem acted out too many times,” says eight-year UrbanPromise staff veteran, Jodina Hicks. “It begins to happen during the eighth or ninth grade – skipping of classes, a falling behind in school work. A kid gets further and further behind and doesn’t have the skill to catch up. Before long, he or she has given up on school and says, ‘School’s not for me.'”

That can change, says Melanie Young, director of the program. “This year we targeted some of the most academically vulnerable ninth and tenth grade students attending our programs. The probability of a young man like Troy dropping out of school completely was very high. The home school program gave him another alternative. He’s now succeeding!”

The home school program uses the “Christian Liberty” curriculum. Initially, each student is tested for his or her grade level, and then placed on an appropriate learning track. This allows a student to work at his or her own pace and to move ahead when they have comprehended and mastered the appropriate subjects. The only difference between any other home school program and the UrbanPromise program is that, rather than staying at home, the young people come to the UrbanPromise facility each day where they are supervised by qualified teachers and volunteers. In addition to their individual academic work, the students have the fun of cooking meals, taking career trips together, and visiting various local universities and colleges. Program emphasis is on developing a supportive community of learning.

– E.P. News

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