CHARLOTTE, N.C. (June 16, 2014) – When Jimmy McQuilkin decided to launch UrbanPromise in Charlotte’s South Blvd. corridor last June, he laid out a four-step plan: to recruit and train high school students to serve as StreetLeaders, to institute a pilot AfterSchool Program, to host Summer Camp for AfterSchool attendees, and to establish a permanent AfterSchool Program. Each step was charted to align with UrbanPromise’s holistic mission: Reach a Child, Raise a Leader, Restore Community. Now, approximately one year later, UrbanPromise Charlotte has just completed phase two, a pilot AfterSchool Program, and is kicking off Summer Camp 2014.
McQuilkin, a former Teach For America teacher who serves as UrbanPromise Charlotte’s executive director, has spent this past school year empowering his high school StreetLeaders by providing them with training, tutoring, college preparation and mentoring. In turn, the StreetLeaders were employed as tutors at “Camp Joy,” UrbanPromise’s pilot AfterSchool Program, which was implemented to provide elementary and middle school students with opportunities to improve academic performance, develop life skills, create positive relationships with caring adults, explore the arts and nurture their faith.
Camp Joy commenced on February 5 with six elementary school kids. By May 28, the date of the last session, the program had grown to 48 regular attendees. The program, through its combination of literacy instruction, tutoring, song, dance and Bible studies, served to bring genuine joy to the students from the South Blvd. corridor.
“We had one particular student who arrived to the first session timid and tearful. Our StreetLeaders sprung to action, encouraging him and engaging him in song and dance. The student’s body language began to change, and by the end of ‘The Funky Chicken,’ he was smiling,” McQuilkin recalls. “When Camp Joy drew to a close last month, you would have been hard pressed to see him without a smile—whether he was singing camp songs, raising his hand during reading class or playing soccer, he had a smile spread across his face. His mom told us that he spends all week looking forward to Wednesday, the day he gets to go to Camp Joy and see our StreetLeaders.”
The success of Camp Joy is evident not only in stories such as this, but also in the level of community engagement it has drawn, and the feedback that’s been received. When UrbanPromise hosted a celebration for its Camp Joy parents on May 14, the event brought in nearly 130 attendees, including parents and siblings of AfterSchool participants, along with StreetLeaders.
“Hearing the feedback has been an amazing experience! Parents have been sharing not only how happy the kids are, but also how happy they are. They stressed over and over how much kids are loving the program and how much it is helping them… Many of the parents told me how this program has been an answer to their prayers,” shared UrbanPromise Charlotte Assistant Director Juan Pablo Soto.
One of the greatest challenges McQuilkin and Soto had to overcome was that of transportation, as many of the StreetLeaders and AfterSchool students did not have access to reliable transportation or rides beyond the bus system provided by the schools. Initially they rented a charter bus, which proved to be financially unsustainable. Their new solution? “We bought our own school bus! And I just received a commercial driver license,” McQuilkin stated.
McQuilkin’s goal with Camp Joy was to give the community a real taste of UrbanPromise’s unique model and also to build momentum for Summer Camp, which will essentially serve as an extension of Camp Joy. Camp is scheduled Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.– 5 p.m., and will run from June – August. Campers will receive breakfast and lunch daily, spend their morning on literacy, discovery and Bible classes, and finish each day with soccer through UrbanPromise’s partnership with Creative Player. UrbanPromise is currently accepting donations from anyone interested in sponsoring campers for a week at camp.
“We see this as another step toward establishing the UrbanPromise family,” McQuilkin stated. “It has been incredible to see the relationships between our StreetLeaders and Camp Joy students develop, as you see the magic that happens on both ends. Older kids feeling that sense of pride, and younger kids gravitating and looking up to our StreetLeaders.”
Contact: Bethany Early
firstname.lastname@example.org or (724) 944-2458
About UrbanPromise Charlotte
Reach a Child, Raise a Leader, Restore Community.
UrbanPromise reaches younger children through afterschool and summer programs and raises high school leaders who are employed as mentors in these programs. Our ultimate goal is to restore community as a new generation of young leaders affects social, economic, and spiritual revitalization in their neighborhoods and the city of Charlotte. For more information, including a newsletter sign-up and details on volunteering, mentoring, or providing meals for StreetLeader trainings, please visit our newly-launched website at www.urbanpromisecharlotte.org. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and on our blog.