Elijah Perry, 23 years old, found himself in the same position that many young people find themselves today—searching for meaningful employment. With support and guidance from counselors at Center For Family Services, Elijah received the opportunity to join PowerCorps Camden’s first cohort.
PowerCorps Camden is an AmeriCorps program in partnership with the City of Camden, Office of the Mayor in which Camden youth work full time over a six-month period to revitalize the city’s public spaces.
Although he understood that PowerCorps was a program focused on improving the environment of Camden City, Elijah initially felt that the green infrastructure projects were merely strenuous work. “It actually took me more than a month to get fully invested. There was definitely a transition period for me because at first I didn’t take it as seriously as I should have.”
This arduous transition was due in part to personal issues Elijah was facing causing him to sometimes distanced himself from members. But through time and perseverance, Elijah began to take on a reformed approached and become more communicative with his fellow cohort and staff.
“At the end of the day, you can have any negative situation happen to you. You don’t get anything good out of it unless you want to change. I needed to change and take on a different outlook.”
A reinvigorated Elijah increased his commitment to PowerCorps Camden and began to reap the benefits provided by the program. He looks back on his term with PowerCorps as a gratifying experience in which he obtained skills that will certainly help him as he moves forward, both personally and professionally. Added discipline, increased work ethic, healthy communication, and the ability to effectively network are all skills that Elijah attributes to his PowerCorps experience.
Utilizing an existing solutions-oriented partnership between PowerCorps Camden and the Camden Collaborative Initiative, Elijah now holds a position at Camden’s Adventure Aquarium as a part of the Guest Services Team.
Aside from being employed, Elijah will use the educational award provided to him by the AmeriCorps for successful completion of PowerCorps to attend Rowan College at Burlington County in the fall to pursue a degree in Accounting. Prior to joining PowerCorps Camden, he had trouble committing to the pursuit of a college education for various reasons, but he now finds himself ready to embrace the challenges ahead.
“[College] was always in my mind. But I wasn’t in school for a while because of personal issues and I wasn’t mentally ready. Every time I would tell myself I would go back, it seemed like I would kind of jinx myself. But this time, it’s different.”
Elijah leaves PowerCorps with a more positive attitude, ready to embrace the challenges that lie ahead. “I learned not to give up. I don’t want to sound cliché. But a lot of me at one time wanted to shut down…but now I keep myself pushing and wanting to achieve greater things.”