Former Camden Mayor Redd Helps Camelot Students Celebrate Mid-Year Graduation
Forty Camden students who took advantage of a second chance through Camelot Education received their high school diplomas in a mid-year graduation ceremony on Friday, February 9, 2018. Former Mayor Dana Redd, now CEO of the Rowan University/Rutgers-Camden board of governors.
Redd told of how she lost both of her parents to gun violence when she was eight and how her grandparents helped raise her along with the rest of what she calls the “village.” Redd went on to serve on City Council and in the state Senate before serving two terms as mayor. Just as she has given back to her community, she challenged the graduates to give back as they find success.
“Don’t let anyone talk about our city and tell you that Camden is not this or that. Camden is better than most people think. And Camden is a diamond in the rough and because we are a diamond in the rough we can shape the future of Camden and we together can change Camden’s narrative. You’re already doing just that,” she said.
Redd called out Ya’Nya Buckhannon for special acknowledgement, citing the 18-year-old graduate as proof that with hard work and having a dream anything is possible.
“I want to go to school for my law degree, I want to get my business degree and I want to get my writing degree,” Buckhannon said. “Camelot was the best experience in my life because I really didn’t have family and they’re my family.”
Buckhannon has been accepted to multiple colleges including Stanford but she says she plans to go to Temple.
Another graduate looking forward to college is Danny Dejesus, 19, who spent a year and a half with Camelot, transferring from Camden Academy Charter High School.
“I was getting caught up with my friends so I wasn’t really doing my work,” he says. “My cousin started going to Camelot last year and she told me about it and she basically said it’s like a second chance so I gave it some thought and I figured it was time. It took me some time to get used to it but when I did it was like a family.”
All of the graduates had either dropped out or were at risk of dropping out but attended Camelot’s Excel Academy programs within Camden High and Woodrow Wilson High.
Camelot has been a committed partner to the Camden School District which has seen its graduation rate rise from 48% in 2013 when Camelot arrived to 70% last year.
“The importance of our young people excelling and succeeding is important to the city of Camden rising and being the city invincible that we all know Camden to be,” Redd told the students.