Camden’s rich history is often remembered in terms of its industrial might or its famous residents. As much pride as we take in our connection to industries like shipbuilding and poets like Walt Whitman, the story of Camden has always been about the strength of its neighborhoods and the resilience of its residents. Over the past several decades, industries left and population declined, but the moniker “City Invincible” has remained true, as community leaders have continued to persevere through periods of rising unemployment, poverty, and crime.
There’s a renewed sense of optimism today in Camden. Public safety has improved thanks to structural reforms to the police force; businesses are relocating and market-rate housing is being built thanks to significant investments in economic development. But what Camden most owes its citizens is opportunity, and nothing represents the possibility of a better tomorrow more than a high quality education.
Six years ago, the state of New Jersey took over the Camden City School District after decades of poor performance. Since then, the graduation rate has risen from 49% to 66%, the dropout rate has been cut in half, and math and English proficiency at district and renaissance schools has tripled.
Camden is indeed rising, but success won’t be measured in the number of new office towers. It will be measured in the tears of joy as parents watch their students march down the aisle to receive their high school diploma and the beams of pride when college graduates cash their paycheck from their first job.
The next chapter of Camden’s history has yet to be written, but we know restoring Camden to its previous glory will be about supporting its people and its neighborhood. Here at CEF, we want to be part of that story by working to continue drive Camden’s progress in improving its schools.