Camden’s Urban BoatWorks Program Continues To Have Positive Impact On Hundreds Of Local Students

CBS Philly By Alecia Reid February 20, 2022 at 7:31 pm

CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — A youth program in Camden is making an impact on hundreds of middle and high school students. Nearly all of the kids who participate go on to college.

And some return to help guide future generations.

“It’s transformative in so many ways,” Jim Cummings, of Urban Promise, said.

For over a decade, Cummings has transformed his love of the water to student projects in the Urban Promise program. Students helped build boats, kayaks, and more. 

The ninth graders are making the best of experiential learning.

“You’re gonna have adventures on the boat, for sure,” Cummings said as groups of students built a boat.

All the hands-on work can be challenging, but it builds character.

The work spans generations. Former students that have faced triumphs in life to this day continue to take advantage of the student-mentor relationship. 

Former student Chris Williams knows first-hand.

“Chris just graduated from law school,” Cummings said. “This is when he was in high school.”

Raised by a single mother with a high school education, Urban BoatWorks took him places he’d probably never see. But now, Williams is a success story.

“I haven’t met someone from Urban Works that wasn’t a success story,” Williams said.READ MORE:Join CBS3 For ‘Mental Reset’ During Mental Health Awareness Month

Now a carpenter and painter by trade, Luis Santana’s story took a few turns.

“My childhood was all corrupted and I did a lot of nonsense,” Santana said.

But Sanatana said Cummings and others running the program always came through for him. 

“I was supposed to go to juvenile prison for three years and they actually told me I could go live with him because he came to my court date and vouched for me,” Santana said.

In and out of prison until about two years ago, Santana said he’s now focused and ready to help the next generation.

“This summer teach kids how to paint, do simple things, go around and paint over all the graffiti,” Santana said.

They’re not just building boats inside the Camden Shipyard and Maritime Museum. 

“The boat is our vehicle to do those things, to build those relationships, to change lives,” Cummings said. 

At 14-years-old,  Jeremiah Jones is thinking ahead. This summer, he could be a river guide, but he’ll have to learn how to swim.

“It has good money,” Jones said.

Urban BoatWorks knows it takes a community to raise a child.