Kareem Ali: Bringing the Passion to his Hometown of Camden
Kareem Ali says it’s all about finding your passion and using that passion to drive your education.
Ali is executive director at Camelot’s Excel Academy at Woodrow Wilson High in Camden, NJ, the same school he graduated from in 1993 before moving on to a star football career at Temple University.
Ali joined Camelot in 2005 in Philadelphia as a special education teacher. When an opportunity opened up in Camden he decided it was his calling to return to his hometown to help out. The 1998 Temple grad has been at Wilson since 2013. He is also Wilson’s assistant football coach and head track coach.
“It’s a gift to be back but I just never would have imagined it would work out this way,” Ali says.
In a city like Camden with all of its poverty Ali says it’s important for students to see that they can make it.
“A lot of the adverse situations and experiences that I went through growing up in Camden drove me. I am one of the fortunate ones. The trials and tribulations that I experienced always gave me an incentive to want more for myself and my family. There are a lot of positives that come from the city of Camden. I try to serve as an example for our students.”
Ali says his football background taught him an invaluable lesson as well.
“If I take care of myself and do my job and handle my responsibility, we’ll be a cohesive group,” he said. “Self-preservation comes first but when you think of everyone doing their individual part, collectively we’ll be accountable to one another and we can form that cohesive team. Football instilled those values in me.”
Ali even applies the team theory to having his program embedded within a school like Woodrow Wilson, noting the advantages to having his program in the same building as the regular high school.
“Our students see the pep rallies, they still see the student body they came from and interact with them,” Ali says. “There are a lot of collaborative things that go on with our teachers and staff as well as the students. Being in the building is definitely a plus because the kids still feel the attachment of the school.”
One other advantage according to Ali is that the Wilson administrators and staff get to see how Camelot operates.
“We’re not isolated. They get to see up close and personal how we operate on a daily basis. Many of them want to join our program, but we are not here for the student who is already doing well in the regular classroom. I would have benefited from Camelot during my time.”