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Hopeworks ‘N Camden

By Candice Leigh Helfand/The Star-Ledger

Hopeworks in Camden

Who they are

Hopeworks ‘N Camden is an educational outreach organization based, as its name dictates, in Camden. The group aims to inspire and empower local youths toward figuring out their hopes and “D.R.E.A.M.S.” — which stands for dynamic, realizable efforts to attain and maintain success — and to give them the tools they need to achieve to their fullest potential.


Representatives at Hopeworks ‘N Camden are alarmed by statistics regarding the lack of educational opportunities and successes for Camden students. Their website notes the dropout rate for the city’s two public high schools is at 70 percent, with 50 percent of their students living in poverty.


They try to help youths in and out of school, by offering technology and job skills training, as well as tutoring programs. And their work over the years has made an impact on their surrounding community.


“This September, we reached over 100 youth who have been (in the program) and gone on to college,” said director of operations Sean Dougherty, who has been working with the program for the past five years. “Something like only 10 percent of the youth (in Camden) go to college — it’s a pretty big thing for us.”

How it began

Founded in 2000, Hopeworks ‘N Camden has sought from the very beginning to make a positive impact on the Camden community, especially given the extremely negative, potentially dangerous influences children are exposed to on a daily basis.


“There are drug dealers on… corners here, and children in this neighborhood are walking by them every day,” Dougherty said. “One way we’re hoping to transform the neighborhood is that they’ll see something different coming from our facility — people carrying backpacks or having graduation barbecues.”


The organization’s hiring program has been successful, hiring 255 youths over the years and paying out more than $330,000 in salaries.


Last month, the group implemented a program called C.R.I.B. — Community Responding in Belief. Housed in a former convent, C.R.I.B. offers youths a positive, constructive living environment.

Where it is headed

One of the benefits of Hopeworks ‘N Camden, according to its staff, is the very personalized experience they can offer to their students. “We want to keep the intimacy,” Dougherty said.

So while they do hope to help more disadvantaged and at-risk youths, they don’t wish to do so by diluting the Hopeworks ‘N Camden experience. Instead, they are discussing the possibility of starting up a second Hopeworks branch in another similarly-afflicted area.

No matter what, though, they hope to simply keep offering children in Camden the opportunities that they need, and deserve.

How to help

For more information about Hopeworks ‘N Camden, visit the group’s website at www.hopeworks.org, or call (856) 365-4673.