A partnership for the good of Camden’s children

CAMDEN — In an office building here on Market Street in downtown Camden, hope springs eternal. Photographs of school children, all smiles, line the walls. A chartreuse chair sits near the entrance, bold and vibrant.

The same chair is used in a new advertising campaign, with a young Catholic school boy sitting in it, in front of the hallowed, wooden doors of Holy Name School in Camden. Tradition meeting the future.

“My future is not yet written,” the ad says. “Become part of our story. Be part of something great.”

Catholic Partnership Schools, which inhabits the second floor of this Camden building and is responsible for the advertisement, is working to make great the futures of the 1,000 students who attend Camden-area schools.

The Partnership was established in 2008 by the Diocese of Camden and the International Education Foundation/Catholic School Development Program, and was formerly known as the Catholic School Partnership. The initiative’s mission is to strengthen and sustain the inner-city K-8 Catholic schools in the impoverished Camden City area: Holy Name, Sacred Heart, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral, and Pennsauken’s St. Cecilia School.

Based on research and analysis, the partnership bills itself as a “new and dynamic model of Catholic urban education,” and has top education, management, finance and advancement executives assisting in helping Camden students to receive the best possible school experience.

With increased school enrollment, funding, and emphasis on excellence, the partnership hopes to cultivate schools that will have educational resources and practices, and strong business models, that will bring students better and more effective recreational facilities, after school and summer programs, science labs, dedicated art programs, integrated technology, and classroom teaching.

For Camden’s students, “so many of their lives are in flux,” said Sister Karen Dietrich, SSJ, executive director of the Catholic Partnership Schools.

“Our children need a constancy, a presence of loving adults in their lives. Given the reality of their everydays, these Camden schools, which have been anchors in their communities for so long, need to be home.”

Working with Sister Karen in the partnership — a “convergence of education, opportunity, and developmental efforts,” she says — are a finance manager, a director of development and communications, and an enrollment and community relations coordinator. Each works, she said, to “give children the opportunity of a quality education, rooted in faith-based values.”

She added, “We need resources to provide children with quality education, with programming resources, to relieve (students’ families of) tuition burden.”

Some outsiders might see Camden as a violent and drug-ridden place to pass through on the way to the Ben Franklin Bridge, Sister Karen said, but its children are just like everyone else’s. “Camden children want to be loved, happy, successful, to be able to follow their passion.”

Catholic Partnership Schools has partnered with families, communities and businesses to get the word out about Catholic urban education. As well, local philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and family foundations have pledged their support.

Two digital billboards, including the one featuring the boy in front of Holy Name, are visible near the Ben Franklin Bridge and the Airport Circle, to spread the message of Catholic schools in Camden.

“This is a great obligation we have. The ministry of education is an important ministry for the Catholic Church,” Sister Karen said.

“These children deserve the opportunity. We have no idea what these children are meant to bring to the world; we have a responsibility to nurture them. It’s the beginning of their story; we have to ensure the end is as God would want it to be.”

For more information on Catholic Partnership Schools, go to www.catholicpartnershipschools.org or call 856-338-0966.

Categories: Catholic School News

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