Urban Mentors Network – Our Story

UMN-1Over 11 years ago it started with one Girls Group created to give teen girls from our neighborhood “a place” to share, grow and build positive community. Over the years it developed into several small groups for girls, an Urban Leaders group focused on helping youth become local servant hearted leaders, a book club for Parents and Mentors and numerous community building/family events throughout the year.

We are passionate about mentoring, networking, building up positive community. We believe that youth need positive adults to walk alongside them for the long haul. We also believe that the strongest leaders are homegrown so we strive to involve both our youth and parents in all aspects of the Urban Mentors Network.

Cornerstone Christian Academy – A Beacon of Hope in West Philadelphia

Over the years, EAPE has created a variety of missionary enterprises that have impacted some of the neediest people in the world. Through our monthly newsletter, I’ve tried to give you glimpses into what is happening in one or another of these programs. This month, I’ve chosen to tell you about Cornerstone Christian Academy. We created Cornerstone Christian Academy for school children who are growing up in “at risk” neighborhoods in Southwest Philadelphia, many of whom come from single parent homes or are being raised by grandmothers.

Cornerstone Christian Academy Students

Children attending Cornerstone Christian Academy receive a quality education in a safe and loving environment.

Initially this school struggled academically and we faced a variety of crises. Principal after principal left after only short terms of service. Teacher turn-over was an ongoing problem. We had trouble with the city government when we tried to get our building approved for use. But we “hung in there,” and the results are more than encouraging.

First of all, Cornerstone Christian Academy (CCA) is up for full accreditation with the Middle Atlantic States accrediting association. It’s come a very long way academically!

Secondly, CCA’s ministries are year round; they do not stop. The school becomes a haven for kids in the neighborhood during the summer months. There will be an urban summer camp for children that will include lots of fun and games. Educational programs to give these children a “head-start” when they go back to school in the fall.

The Gates Foundation generously gave computers to CCA that have enabled us to offer expert and comprehensive training in all aspects of computer use. Both those enrolled in CCA during the regular school year as well as those in CCA’s summer programs will get the benefits of this specialized training. This is a great gift to a poor neighborhood where children have been left behind in today’s increasingly technologically oriented schools.

Cornerstone Christian Academy Sports

During the summer, campers participate in drama, music, art, dance, technology, sports, swimming and weekly field trips.

CCA has stayed focused on its Christian mission. The Bible is woven into the curriculum; participation in regular chapel services and nurturing of Christian character are at the heart of our efforts. We are committed to having our children come to know Jesus in a personal way.

Now here’s where you come in. We need you to go the second mile with your giving. All of our students receive financial support to help cover tuition expenses (which are very low to start with), but there are some children whose parents or guardians are not able to meet even our low financial expectations. Some of the poorest of the poor may have to drop out, and we are working hard to prevent that from happening.

Could you make an extra effort in giving so we can give such children the financial help they need? I hope your answer is “yes!”

A Rising Promise

The Need:

Urban Promise TrentonHere in Trenton, gangs have been actively recruiting kids as young as 8 years old. In recent years a 7 year old girl was raped by seven men who were gang members. According to reports released by the New Jersey State Police and the National Crime Data Bank, the number of murders, as well as the amount of gang related crime, is higher than ever. Incidents of gang crime, including gang graffiti, murder, robbery and drug dealing are on the rise and have spread to Trenton. In the face of all this, Trenton recently had to lay off about 475 city employees, including 142 uniformed cops and 78 firefighters. There is a critical and ever-increasing need to give the children of Trenton an alternative and a safe haven.

Why Trenton, Why UrbanPromise:

*Trenton’s population is 84,913 and 39.8% are under the age of 18 years old. There are currently no summer camp programs and limited after school resources. That means 33,795 kids are without any alternatives to gangs and crime. In the face of recent and continuing budget cuts, this situation will only worsen.

*There are 38 elementary schools, 5 middle schools, and 7 high schools in Trenton. The average SAT scores are; Math 378, Verbal 380, and Essay 378. That’s an average score 1138 out of a possible 2400. Furthermore, it’s below New Jersey’s average of 1505. Neither government nor the overstressed public school system have been able to adequately address chronic underperformance, which begins at the elementary level.

*UrbanPromise has a proven model to address these needs by providing an alternative to gangs, drugs, substandard education and crime. UrbanPromise Trenton will bring that model to the City of Trenton, providing a safe haven that allows children at a very young age to choose a different path; to learn about God, to exercise leadership, to receive after school tutoring and to follow examples of success they can relate to. It will open up a world to them that many would otherwise never believe they can be part of.

We believe UrbanPromise excels at raising Christian leaders that are passionate about doing God’s work and fulfilling God’s commission. It starts with a Vision. Executive Director, Carl Clark knows this first-hand. As a young man he grew up in one of Camden’s roughest neighborhoods. He was raised by a single mother who was a drug abuser and later became very ill with cancer. Bruce Main, Founder of UrbanPromise, and other interns were there for him during his time of need. Growing up in the UrbanPromise Program taught Carl that everyone has choices and the ability to make decisions. A lot of kids growing up in a poverty stricken environment don’t understand there are choices or realize they have one.  Carl made the choice to leave his lucrative career as a banker because he sees the need in Trenton just as Bruce Main saw the need in Camden. Our vision is to take the UrbanPromise Model to Trenton and shape the lives of the youth from the bottom up

About Little Havana/Miami

In 2009, Miami City, the principal city within Miami-Dade County, was home to 433,143 individuals, a majority of which was Hispanic/Latino (68.5%). Miami-Dade County was home to 2.5 million residents, of which 62.5% were Hispanic/Latino. Below are some key demographic statistics about Miami:

Urban Promise Miami Income and Poverty 
In 2009, the median household income was $28,999 with 20.5% of families living below the federal poverty level (37.2% of children under 18 were living below the poverty level). Some Miami neighborhoods including Wynwood, Overtown and Little Haiti, have significantly lower median incomes (35-52% less than Miami’s median household income).

Educational Attainment 
Over 31% of Miami residents ages 25 and older did not receive a high school diploma. Take into consideration individuals ages 18 to 25 who will not complete schooling and this number would be significantly higher. In 2010, the graduation rate in Miami-Dade County was 72%, while an increase over prior years, is still considerably poor.

In 2009, 69.4% of Miami residents spoke Spanish at home. Of those, 40.7% speak English less than very well.

UPM-3These statistics just begin to tell the story about Miami’s lowest level of civic engagement among major cities in the United States. Civic engagement includes acts of voting and other political participation as well as volunteering and donating to charity. But according to the recent report, A Tale of Two Cities, income and educational attainment do not tell the full story. Instead, these factors combined with civic values that focus more on the electoral process (Miami has higher than expected rates of voting and discussion of politics) to the exclusion of the other forms of civic engagement results in this lowest level of engagement. Weak community institutions – both the elected government and the nonprofit sector – also exemplify this. Only 24% of survey respondents said they could trust the government at least most of the time, and only 21% thought city leadership was at least good. Also, the nonprofit sector in Miami is considerably weak, in both the number and the support received, compared to other major cities. These factors combined exemplify the poor civic engagement in Miami.

To change this pattern, UrbanPromise Miami believes it starts with the new generation of young people, who through the proper academic, emotional, social and spiritual nutrition; they can improve these negative statistics and affect positive change in their communities. The founders of UrbanPromise Miami identified a model that has shown to be successful in Camden, NJ and through replication of this model in Miami, hope to see the change that they seek in the city in which they call home.

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