By Kumarr Clark
CCC Journalism Program

BLACKWOOD – Richard Gaines is focused and determined to change the City of Camden one child at a time.

Gaines, a student at Camden County College, is only one semester away from obtaining an associate’s degree in liberal arts. Gaines plans on continuing his education at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Hoping to receive a master’s in education, eventually Gaines would like to become a teacher in the City of Camden.

“People graduate from school, start careers and forget about where they come from. This is my way of giving back to my community,” says Gaines.

But Gaines already gives abundantly to his community through his employment as a mentor and tutor at Urban Promise Ministries. It was at Urban Promise that Gaines developed a love for educating the youth. As coach of the Camp Saved first- through fourth-grade basketball team, Gaines coached his team to four victories out of six games. Born Sept. 8, 1992 in Camden, Gaines has attended Pyne Poynt Middle School and Urban Promise’s afterschool programs, where his love for basketball grew.

Gaines was a student at Urban Promise’s high school, Urban Promise Academy, and graduated in the top five in his class. Gaines’ character has grown tremendously with the help of the number one employer of teenagers and high school students in Camden City.

The Urban Promise Street Leader Program made him form into a reliable, responsible and outspoken leader, says Jacob Rodriguez, director of Urban Promise’s Street Leader Program. These are qualities a good teacher must possess. Camden City has a dropout average of 67 percent. Many professors are apathetic about the success of students because of the security found in tenure.

Gaines is an agent for change. This young, ambitious, empowering leader has set the Camden City School System in his sight. Gaines has gone through the school system and knows what it takes to overcome the scrutiny that has inhabited the citizens of the city and the students of the school. Gaines is an inspiration to all people who come from areas that are criticized for their corruption. Truly he is the definition of the underdog who is defying the odds.

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