Camden Education Fund Grants Schools $1.23 Million to Better Support Students with Disabilities

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This article was written by Noah Zucker of Tap Into Camden on September 26, 2021.

CAMDEN, NJ –  Online learning was a challenge for most students throughout Camden, but particularly so for students with disabilities, who make up 18% of the city’s student body, according to the Camden Education Fund.

To help the schools better support their disabled students, the Camden Education Fund has awarded $1.23 million in grants to the Camden City School District, Camden’s Promise Charter School, LEAP Academy, Uncommon Camden Prep and KIPP Cooper Norcross.

“We wanted to make sure that support for students with disabilities remained a top priority,” said Naeha Dean, CEF’s executive director. “Many of the services these students receive are difficult to provide via virtual learning, so it was especially important to us that we give schools additional resources and support.”

All had to apply for the grant with a specific plan it wanted to implement, Dean said. CEF will follow up with each recipient to ensure the funds are used properly.

“It is not often that philanthropic opportunities arise specifically for supporting students with disabilities,” CCSD Superintendent Katrina McCombs said in a release. “I am grateful for this support from Camden Education Fund.  It will take us, as a city, one step closer to our goal of equity for all children.”

CCSD will use its $250,000 to implement a new culinary program at Woodrow Wilson High School so students with disabilities can acquire the skills they need for careers in the agricultural, culinary and food service industries.

KIPP will use its $245,900 to prepare high school students with significant disabilities for life after graduation. A full-scale mock apartment will be constructed so students can acquire the soft skills they will need to get by as adults.

“From goal setting to getting a job and from living independently to managing money, this grant from the Camden Education Fund will support programming for ‘real life’ experiences that will help our students with special learning needs gain confidence and independence,” said Jamie Downey, the district’s director of special education, in a prepared statement.

LEAP will use its $250,000 to better support its students with autism through the introduction of applied behavioral therapy focused on social skills. It’s considered an effective treatment by the American Psychological Association, but it’s not yet widely used in schools.

At Camden’s Promise Charter School, the $235,000 will be used to provide more individualized literacy support to students with disabilities. Teachers will be trained on Wilson Fundations curriculum “in order to build confident, successful readers,” Promise’s Executive Director Rebecca Brinkmann Phelan said in a prepared statement.

Camden Prep will use its $250,000 to hire special education teachers for its high school program offering smaller classes and more individualized instruction to students with significant disabilities.

This will not be the last time CEF will provide grants to city schools, Dean said.

The organization plans to make money available for schools to implement “high quality curriculum,” which she defined as those “highly rated by experts in the field.”