Blog: 2021

Why we ride
May 18, 2021

“There was a child went forth every day, and the first object he look’d upon, that object he became, and that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day or for many years…” Walt Whitman – Leaves of Grass

I was recently asked to share the UrbanPromise story with a new colleague. As I sat back and began to reflect on my 17 years at UrbanPromise I realized how important it was to know the Camden story where UrbanPromise had planted its flag over 33 years ago.

When I came onboard, I was living in the comfortable suburbs 15 miles and a world apart from Camden. Like many of us living in the surrounding communities Camden was only a place I passed through while going somewhere else. I will admit in those days I often felt overwhelmed by the physical harshness I would sometimes see in the neighborhoods where some of my students lived. I would think about what they saw when they walked out their door and I felt powerless to change it. 

I now know UrbanPromise can change the experiences students have through our schools and after school programs. Programs like UrbanTrekkers, StreetLeaders, Boat Building and Butterfly gardens are transforming lives by creating opportunity and safe spaces for children and youth to discover who they are and the possibilities for their lives…to become the very person God created them to be. 

I also know that as influential and powerful environment can be in our lives our lived experiences can overcome those influences. This is Why We Ride and we invite you to join us once again in the in our annual Pedal for Promise on October 2, 2021. Sign up today. www.urbanpromiseusa.org/pedal  

Peace,

Jim Cummings

Trekker Mornings (courtesy of Covid)
January 6, 2021

The author and theologian C.S. Lewis had written in his famous book Mere Christianity that “Reality is not neat, not obvious, not what you expect.” This could not have been any truer than in the present year of 2020. Regardless of which country, political party, or age you are in this year seems to have found you with a change that you weren’t expecting.

The effects could be felt by us keenly in the UrbanTrekkers program. At UrbanTrekkers, many of our greatest programs involve overnight trips with our students to amazing natural places across the Northeast and beyond. These trips had to be adapted into a very new thing this school year to fit into the confines of health regulations and our own ability to transport students safely in this time.

These new trips we referred to as Trekker Mornings. Each week each grade would have a morning dedicated to an outdoor experience nearby. Beginning with paddling in BoatWorks-made canoes and ending with hiking and biking in local parks, the mornings had a wide range of topics and activities.  The consistency of the trips allowed for a massive amount of genuine connections between staff, volunteers, and students. The short distance to the trip locations also allowed for a flexibility that would have been difficult to manage on a longer expedition. These small but potent advantages allowed for experiences that built up both the students and our Trekker team.

One October morning comes to mind this fall to illustrate this point. We had planned to take our senior class for a bike ride around Cooper River Park, a local park with many great paths for the amateur and experienced biker. Unfortunately, the trails were quite wet this particular morning due to some rain that had been falling steadily through much of the night, morning, and showed no signs of stopping. Some of our students seemed certain we were going to cancel our morning activities. We surprised them with a choice: we could continue with our scheduled programming and go for a bike ride, or we could do something unplanned and go for a nature walk in a park that many of us had never been to before. A vote was held and the hike was chosen. So, after a short drive and some wardrobe changes to include waterproof boots, ponchos and extra layers we set out in the relative wilds of Hopkins Pond. The rain had continued to hold up in a strong and thorough fall all through the hike. However, no one complained of the hike, some even were jumping through puddles with glee in their boots! As we returned to the vehicles at the end of a half-mile hike, soaked through and through, we congratulated the students on their grit and upbeat nature. We on the Trekker decided to reward this optimism with some warm drinks on the way back to school.

This memory stands out to me as a testament to both the unpredictable nature of the world, but also the resilience of our team and students. We don’t know what the rest of the season may hold for the world or our state, but we are working to be ready for it. We are preparing a number of programs: some tried, some different, and prepared for the unexpected. We are thankful to those that support us through this season with its twists and turns. We look forward to sharing more of this new season and its stories with you soon. As C.S. Lewis said, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

 

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