Helping Camden youth, one mentor at a time

Community Bulletin/NJ.com
Friday, April 8, 2016

In 2008, 12-year-old DaQuan Johnson of Camden was struggling in school, getting into trouble, and succumbing to peer pressure. With an incarcerated parent, Johnson needed a role model, and that's when the Center for Family Services (CFS) of Camden stepped in.

Johnson became part of CFS' Project Children Obtaining a Positive Environment (COPE) Program, which provides support, through a mentor, to Camden City youth ages 4 to 17 who have an incarcerated parent. The mentors provide support, guidance, and friendship for a period of at least one year through bi-weekly, hourly get-togethers.

Johnson was matched with Camden Fire Department Captain Tyrone Baker, and the connection was instantaneous.

"I wanted to influence him and steer him in the right direction," said Baker. "I wanted to help him become a success story."

Mission accomplished! After regular visits to Johnson's home progressed to trips to the mall, movies, and sporting events, Baker's relationship with Johnson turned into a home run. Today, Johnson, now 19, is a sophomore at Camden County College with hopes of becoming a police officer, and still keeps in touch with Baker through text messaging and daily phone calls.

Mentor/mentee relationships such as this one are possible thanks in part to a $2,500 grant from Investors Bank to CFS.

CFS is a non-profit human services agency with 90 years of experience serving children and families in Southern New Jersey, with a vision of assisting all people in leading capable, responsible, fulfilled lives in strong families and communities. Project COPE is just one of 55 programs the organization runs.

The donation from Investors Bank will be used to fund various aspects of Project COPE such as background checks for mentors and case management.

Center For Family Services applied for the grant from the Investors Bank Foundation, which supports non-profit organizations that enrich the diverse communities served by Investors Bank.

Center For Family Servcies is always looking for more mentors, as studies show that children involved with mentoring programs are less likely to begin using illegal drugs, consume alcohol, skip school, or engage in acts of violence.

To read this article on NJ.com, click here