“God is the One who Perfects Us;
All I Can Do is Try to Live through the Bible.”
Rush hour traffic is just starting to clog Wilmington’s streets on a weeknight. Children from the East Side are hurrying through the red doors of Ezion Mt. Carmel Church at the corner of 8th and Walnut. It’s the start of another evening at Camp Victory, and Leah is cheerfully greeting each child by name.
As a StreetLeader it is her job to lead 1st – 6th grade children in Camp Victory, teaching the High 5s (hospitality, reconciliation, wholeheartedness, ownership, and speaking life!), conducting fun activities, helping with homework, building relationships and setting an example – no small responsibility for a 16-year-old to carry.
Rewind 18 years, a young man named Mike Ricks from the East Side is a StreetLeader guiding children in Camp Victory, just like Leah. Now 32, he reflects on his experience.
Even at 14, I saw UrbanPromise as a path to success. I had a unique opportunity to establish myself as a leader. I grew up at 9th and Pine on the East Side, and if you know the city, you know that it is a very, very, very rough area. To go to a place where I could learn valuable life skills and then come back into this challenged community, to be looked at as a leader, and someone who can inspire more people to look for a productive outlet, was a very empowering thing. I didn’t take it lightly. It was a burden, but a burden worth bearing.
Leah also decided that the StreetLeader position is a burden worth bearing.
But this was not always the case. Last year, a spell of absences and tardies led to Leah’s removal from the UrbanPromise Academy and her role as a StreetLeader.
She reflects back on that time, sharing, “I had no standard for my life. I struggled with timeliness and communication. And I was in my job for the money, not for the kids.”
Leah could not see how great a leader she could become or know she could be an excellent student. She underestimated the power of her love in the lives of those around her.
Sitting across the table from Mr. Josh, the StreetLeader Director, Leah interviewed to regain her role as a StreetLeader. Mr. Josh asked, “What changed?” Leah simply responded “God.”
She realized that God always had a different plan for her life. He did not want her to “be just acceptable, but excellent.” With this realization, she wants to be a person who “does the right thing while she can,” understanding that “God is the one who perfects us and all I can do is try to live through the Bible.”
Today, Leah rarely ever shows up late, and if she does, she makes sure to communicate in advance. Now, back at the UrbanPromise Academy, her grades have sky-rocketed
“If it’s not an A or a B I am not happy with it. And really B’s are just okay, I prefer A’s.”
When asked why she desired to return to work, Leah said, “I know God cares, and I wanted to care about what He cares about. And after I was let go, I realized I never knew what I had until I lost it; I missed my family.”
And we are so privileged to have Leah as a part of our family! Reflecting back, Mike Ricks knows something about what Leah experienced.
UPW plants a lot of seeds in young people’s lives, and they bear rich fruit. To come from a neighborhood I’ve come from and to see what I’ve seen… the effects of apathy and a tough city. I ask how I could have done it without the support system and the family that was created here. It really is amazing to look at the next group of StreetLeaders and see how together they are. Especially when we’ve been told we can’t make it out or we won’t make it out. UrbanPromise has not just been a vehicle for us to get out, but to get out and fly.
Nine months after being fired from the StreetLeader program, Leah got a call to come into work early with Mr. Josh for a conversation. She experienced flashbacks of when she had been let go — ‘Did I do something wrong, am I not doing my job well?’
No. This time Mr. Josh, with an extended hand, offers Leah a promotion to Assistant Team Leader. “Yes, of course, this was my dream!” she exclaims as her Camp Victory family surrounds her, celebrating her with high-fives, laughs and hugs.
This is the portrait of transformation that you make possible when you give to UrbanPromise: faithful relationships built in an afterschool camp on Wilmington’s East Side demonstrating to a generation, from Mike Ricks to Leah, that they can and will fly.
So please, keep making it possible! Your financial partnership will pay Leah’s StreetLeader salary, keep her on the honor roll at the Academy, provide activities for her kids at Camp Victory, and sustain practical, academic, and faith-based programs for Wilmington’s children and teens.
Thank you for being a member of this body. As you gather with your loved ones over Christmas and the holidays, we pray that you feel the gratitude and the love from your extended UrbanPromise family!