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Camden continues to be a city of change, as many corporations, schools and government officials have joined together to create programs that kick-started what is now steady development and growth. Partnerships like these are unique, so the results are extraordinary.

SJ Magazine’s Marianne Aleardi hosted a recent panel with academic leaders to discuss the city’s educational opportunities during the Cooper’s Ferry Partnership annual meeting. A second panel to explore a sense of place with business leaders was hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey’s Deb DiLorenzo. Here are some highlights of the evening.

On higher education…

Higher education plays an instrumental role in Camden Rising, because we are defining the eds and meds corridor that drives much of what is going on in Camden. We can be innovative, because we can be collaborative. We can be extraordinarily creative in how we create pathways for development of our students. We can help to define what it means to be a professional and a good worker in the 21st century.
Phoebe Haddon
Chancellor, Rutgers-Camden

Institutions of higher education really are massive economic engines. To the extent they can pool all of their resources in partnerships, wonderful things can happen. An example of that is Glassboro. About 10 years ago, nobody cared to even drive through, but go see it now. That same thing can happen here in this amazing city.
Ali Houshmand
President/CEO, Rowan University

 

On supporting students…

We saw that Camden City students were limited in terms of extracurricular activities because our primary campus is in Blackwood. We started a shuttle that we were hoping – hoping – would be utilized, and we’re at capacity. We’re looking at our students and meeting them where they are, providing mentoring, tutoring, we even have a food bank because we have food-insecure students. Anything we can do to support our students through their education and into a career is our focus. Today, if you do not get some kind of post-high school credential or degree, we’re
sentencing those kids to poverty. That’s something we all have to embrace, own and really change how we look at our obligation to help our students.
Don Borden
President, Camden County College

It is critically important that students not only come to college but are able to stay in college. Rutgers-Camden has developed a new scholarship program that reduces the amount of tuition for students whose families make under $100,000. It’s called Bridging the Gap, and it’s being studied by the Federal Reserve Bank, because it has innovatively used federal and state funds to provide opportunities for students, so they don’t have to take three or four jobs to maintain their tuition payments.
Phoebe Haddon
Chancellor, Rutgers-Camden

On elementary education…

There’s a lot we’ve done: bringing in new partnerships through nonprofit organizations, turning neighborhood schools into renaissance schools, partnering with our charter schools and improving our traditional public schools along the way. Our graduation rates have improved, and we’re just as proud that our drop-out rates have declined. One out of five students was dropping out, and today it’s roughly one out of 10. Our suspension rates are down 53 percent. We had a huge challenge that we were taking kids out of school and disciplining kids left and right when we should be showing care, love and support for our children.
Paymon Rouhanifard
Superintendent of Schools, Camden City

Enhancing quality of life…

A true revitalization requires a quality of life being brought to the neighborhoods, and there’s no better way to enhance the quality of life in a community than to develop state-of-the-art parks. Camden County is working on a trail that will take residents from the Ben Franklin Bridge through the perimeter of Camden City, 32 miles all the way down to Winslow. You will be able to theoretically ride your bike from Winslow to Manayunk or to Valley Forge as part of the overall Eastern Trails connection.
Camden County Freeholder
Jeffrey Nash

Camden is nine square miles, and we’re supportive of the idea that the surrounding areas and neighborhoods are also going to need some assistance and upgrades. We’re excited about all that’s coming into Camden – so much so that our headquarters are moving here in 2019. When the Camden Tower is complete, we’re moving right in with it.
Ron Hansen
President, The Michaels Organization

 

Improving life outside 9 to 5…

It’s the spaces between buildings that matter. Some of us have been fortunate enough to go to Europe and experience the street environment there. You see a great vibrancy and activity that goes way beyond 9 to 5, and that in turn grows economic activity, public safety, and a sense of city and self. It’s an opportunity for people to come together as a community and experience life in a cafe or in a park along the waterfront. You cannot be a great city in the world today without that kind of opportunity for recreation and leisure, and the opportunity to sit, watch and reflect.
John Gattuso
SVP/Regional Director, Liberty Property Trust

We have a lot of people who are working in the city now, but most of them stay inside and go to their office cafeteria. We want to bring vibrancy in the city. We want to see people walking around at lunch and people staying after work. Studies have found that the more restaurants there are in one place, the better.
Damon Pennington
CEO, ATS Group/Camden’s Restaurant Row

At dusk, the Camden waterfront is one of the most romantic urban vistas and compelling experiences in the country. In the past 18 months, there is not a single corporate executive who I have brought to the Camden waterfront – regardless of what their opinion was of Camden – who didn’t walk away mesmerized. And I use the word mesmerized on purpose. You have to search long and far to find this kind of environment.
John Gattuso
SVP/Regional Director, Liberty Property Trust

March 2018
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