Community Development and Cameron Elementary


I apologize. I have really stalled on keeping up with the blog. I’ve had lots of ideas that I want to flesh out here, but the combination of being behind on my book writing and the fast pace of ministry at River City I’ve been delinquent. I am going to post the rest of my book reviews soon from my last DMin class (especially since my  next one starts tonight!), and I will also post a status update on my writing soon.

But for this one I thought i’d share a quick post about one of the exciting ministry endeavors that River City is involved with.

One of the reasons we chose to pursue and buy the building in the cross-section of Humboldt Park that we did was because of the relationship with Cameron Elementary School. Located at the intersection of Monticello and Potomac, Cameron is just 250 feet away from our future space.  The children, youth, and families connected to Cameron are going to play a significant role in shaping both our community and our space as we move into the future.

One of the many leadership traits I appreciate about Principal Stephen Harden is his commitment to inspiring the students of Cameron to focus their sites on college.  The slogan of the school under Principal Harden is, “Cougar today, College tomorrow.” One of the practical ways Principal Harden wants to infuse this culture into the school is through an annual Career Day. He asked River City to participate, and specifically hoped that we could provide a multiethnic group of volunteers that could participate in this event.  I think that is significant, because it meshes well with our ministry philosophy for how we can best be involved in the neighborhood.

Here is Principal Harden’s invitation letter. I think it says a lot about his philosophy as the Principal:

Dear Friend of Cameron,

I would like to offer you a unique opportunity to support and inspire the students of Daniel R. Cameron Elementary School. Daniel R. Cameron Elementary serves 825 African-American and Hispanic students in the impoverished West Humboldt Park neighbor hood. 98% of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch.  Our students all dream of being successful, but they have little exposure to successful adults or the various career paths available to them.

Last year, Cameron welcomed 45 professionals to our 1st Annual Cameron Career Day.  The experience created a buzz that continued for several months and changed many students’ beliefs about what is possible.  Cameron will host its 2ndAnnual Career Day on Tuesday, September 27, 2011.  This event will provide students with direct access to a wide variety of professionals and give students the opportunity to take a glimpse into the future.  This event will run from 9a to 12p.  Each professional will visit 4-6 classrooms to share their biographies, answer questions, and possibly do demonstrations to expose children to their fields of expertise.

I love his line, “This event will provide students with direct access to a wide variety of professionals and give students the opportunity to take a glimpse into the future.”  I believe one of the most underrated privileges of growing up in a middle class situation — and by proxy one of the most dangerous factors of growing up in poverty — is the power of imagination. It is a very significant factor in the development of a child (and then youth) to have a sense of possibility on your life, as well as the belief that it is theoretically possible to achieve those dreams. A Career Day is obviously not a silver bullet. But I agree with Principal that it is an opportunity for students to “take a glimpse into the future.” Those glimpses add up over time and empower a young person’s imagination.

So, I’m very excited that we have 11 people going tomorrow.  Here is the instructions he gave to them:

Thank you all for your support—this event is instrumental in helping our kids to envision themselves as successful adults.  We are extremely excited about your participation.  Here is some quick info—please let me know if you have any additional questions.


Ø  Optional Orientation at 8:15a

Ø  Arrive by 9a (Library)

Ø  Coffee and …

Ø  Picked up by student ambassador at 9:30a

Ø  Visit 4 classrooms for 15-25 minutes each

Ø  Student ambassador escorts you to your next destination

Ø  Return to Library

Presentation Tips

Ø  Message:

  • ·         What is your background?
  • ·         What did you want to be as a child?
  • ·         How did education impact your success?
  • ·         How did you choose this career path?
  • ·         What did you do when things became difficult?
  • ·         Who was instrumental in your development?
  • ·         What do you do (in layman’s terms)?
  • ·         Why do you love it?

Ø  Use grade-level appropriate language

Ø  Avoidance of industry terms

Ø  Visuals or demonstrations have the biggest impact on student engagement

Ø  Prepare anecdotes about your childhood, school experience, and/or work life.

Ø  Ask them questions.

Ø  Use humor!

3 responses to “Community Development and Cameron Elementary”

  1. This is exactly the kind of involvement needed in our community. Read Isaiah 58:10 and be lights.

  2. So I just returned from Cameron’s 2nd Annual Career day. I can only say it was life giving! Adrianne Palmer and I visited one 5th grade, two 8th grade and one 7th grade classes. There were about 45-50 adults from various walks of life sharing their stories and suggestions with K-8th graders.

    We gathered in the library from 8:15 to 9:30am. Mr. Stephen Hardin, the principal and his staff had prepared a nice welcoming atmosphere and gave a short presentation about the reason behind the Career Day. He’s a passionate man, on a clear mission to make every opportunity for kids and parents and the West Humboldt Park community to live into the positive future. His main focus is the kids and their educational success but he also recognizes that he can’t do it alone.

    Rivercity was there representing a multi-ethnic, multi-talented and passionate team. I had multiple conversations with RC3 folks and others about different ideas to help support Cameron and their on-going journey. We asked a lot of questions about ways to support and improve the educational experience in conjunction with the teachers and staff and other sectors of West Humboldt park.

    The kids were great! They asked a lot of intriguing questions and got excited when we talked about inventing new things or developing ways to combat disease or solve problems in society.

    Mr. Hardin did an excellent job of serving us and helping us debrief and envisioning the 3rd annual career day.

    I’m glad I decided to go even though it was at the last minute.

    Thanks RC3 for staying connected to Cameron.

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