Camp fills summer with hope


It can be hard to find jobs, especially summer jobs, for teens. Many store policies state they only look for workers ages 16 and up.

Urban Hope Assistat Director Dan Keegan (left) and Executive Director Bahari Harris (right) debate decisions concerning Urban Hope’s future kids and campers. (Staff photo by Nishun Stone)

Urban Hope Assistat Director Dan Keegan (left) and Executive Director Bahari Harris (right) debate decisions concerning Urban Hope’s future kids and campers. (Staff photo by Nishun Stone)

At Urban Hope, located in the Walltown area at 1902 Perry St, there is a camp that local kids say they cannot forget. The camp focuses on a job club, which helps teens, ages 14 and older, become successful in the hunt.

As the name says, there is still hope in the inner city.

Urban Hope, which opened the summer of 2004, is a faith-based camp whose mission is to “raise up generations of young heroes – who are beating the odds by the grace of God” and by creating a safe place in the neighborhood to grow.

Bahari Harris is director of Urban Hope and has been so for ten years.

“Through the years, the youth that have attended Urban Hope Summer Camp have consistently noted two main benefits of the experience,” said Harris. “They learn about God, and they learn about business and making real money.”

Urban Hope is associated with the Navigators. The Navigators organization is an international Christian ministry under which Urban Hope operates. The staff goes to different colleges to meet students and recruit them for a summer with area kids.

These counselors then help youth by talking about camp, life and relationship issues.

“The counselors are on the front lines helping to create Urban Hope’s young heroes,” said Harris.

Working at Urban Hope are Counselors in Training, or C.I.T.s, who act as extra help. C.I.T.’s are usually previous campers or citizens in the Walltown community. Urban Hope’s target population is primarily urban youth in 5th through 12th grades who mostly reside in Walltown.

While Urban Hope has a focus on its summer camp, it is actually a year-round initiative. Throughout the year counselors and participants focus on bridging spiritual and economic resources to the youth and their families. They help develop teens by bringing out their potential through academics, sports, life skills and financial literacy.

Urban Hope believes the “hands on” method is better and make things fun for students by not only teaching but by taking trips to area fun parks, swimming pools, bowling alleys and skating rinks.

“Youth also learn about and make money through the Entrepreneurial Challenges,” said Harris.

These challenges are one or two-week business projects where participants form real businesses that serve real customers and make real money.

“The youth learn enterprise related skills and are charged with making a business performance presentation after their businesses liquidate,” Harris said. “Over some summers, youth can walk away from UH with $100 plus in their pockets.”

There are three sub-groups within Urban Hope: Bull City Leaders, Tweens and Entrepreneurship.

Bull City Leaders are the 5th and 6th graders and work on basic money skills. As the youngest in the camp, they get to play outside and stay active. Tweens are the campers in 7th grade and work on small Entrepreneurship skills and basic financial literacy.  The Entrepreneurship group is for the 8th thru 10th grade group. Entrepreneurship members focus on small business challenges and participate in business-related situations like yard sales and cooking meals for the Duke Youth Academy program.

The Entrepreneurship group is also in charge of support for the “Walltown Reunion,” a community gathering that takes place at the Walltown Recreation Center every Fourth of July.

Harris said in the future he wants to see Urban Hope in the hands of its current generation of campers.

“When these campers grow up many will become counselors-in-training and then full-fledged counselors,” said Harris. “These local counselors have a unique perspective on the camp because they grew up in it.”

“They are able to take ownership of the camp and minister to the current generation in a way that was modeled to them,” he said.

Steve Melvin, a current Entrepreneurship group camper, said Urban Hope is a place of hope.

“It’s a fun camp that I love to honestly work at,” said Melvin. “I’ve been here for three years as a camper and I’ve learned a lot.”

Melvin said he plans to enter the C.I.T. program to become a counselor.

“I want to become a C.I.T. so I can have someone look up to me as I looked up to my counselors,” Melvin said.

Harris said this is what Urban Hope is all about.

“Since they grew up in the neighborhood, attended the camp, and know the people, their impact on the lives of the youth is absolutely profound,” he said.

“It is my sincere hope that one of these youth will catch on to the vision of Urban Hope and one day run the entire organization.”

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By Nishun Stone
YO:Durham Intern