If you’re looking for hope in Camden, New Jersey, you might start with the five Catholic Partnership Schools. Each stands as a little island of excellence and hope in a city where those values can be exceedingly rare. Camden is far better known for its infamous crime rate and desperate poverty—and for its failing schools. It’s a place where the graduation rate is less than 50 percent, and only three out of 882 SAT test takers in 2012 were judged ready for college.
Here’s why the Catholic Partnership Schools are different. “It’s really about creating a safe and nurturing environment and student-centered academic programs, and we really are defined by faith-based values,” says Director of Development Keith Lampman. We really do believe that educating Camden’s children in the most efficient and modern manner is the best way to break the cycle of poverty and violence.”
And they do it all for a lot less money than the public or charter schools. It costs $8,000 annually to educate a student at the five schools—Holy Name, Sacred Heart, Saint Anthony of Padua, Saint Cecilia, and Saint Joseph Pro-Cathedral.
By comparison, it costs nearly $24,000 to educate a child in the Camden public schools, and $16,000 for kids in charter schools. Families chip in an average of $900 annual tuition—maybe more or maybe less, depending on ability to pay. Most students in the Camden Partnership schools are non-Catholic. Enrollment in the five schools is about 1,000.
Catholic Partnership Schools are getting good results for their relatively modest investment, Lampman says. “We’re closing the achievement gap. In language arts, by 8th grade, our students are at the national norm or above it. It’s the same with reading. We surpass it in math.”
Paying for those schools is no easy task, but after six years of operation, Lampman says, the partnership and its many donors continue to rise to the challenge.
One of the ways the partnership is raising funds this year should be appealing to anyone who loves Ireland. It’s a raffle for a week in a 19th century Irish cottage in central Mayo, donated by Bill McLaughlin, director and founder of the Irish American Business Chamber & Network (IABCN). It is situated on a 22-acre working farm—and don’t worry, it’s fully modernized, with a beautiful up-to-date kitchen and bathroom, skylights, and hardwood floors. The prize includes round-trip airfare for two.
Donor Ann Baiada came up with the idea at the first gala cocktail party last May. It’s where the partnership introduced its “Fund a Future Initiative.” The dollars raised in the raffle will go directly into that initiative, Lampman says.
The Fund a Future Initiative, says Lampman, “allows us to keep our doors open. One of the things I always tell people is that we’re going into our sixth year with this replicable model of Catholic education, and we have no debt.”
Perpetuating that successful model is Lampman’s job, but it’s also important on a personal level.
“It means a lot to me. I’m not Catholic, but I am absolutely moved every time I go into those schools. Going into those schools is life-changing.”
- You can help keep a good thing going, too. Purchase a raffle ticket for that glorious Irish cottage. They’re $100, and only 500 tickets will be sold. Get the details here.