The following is in response to April Saul’s “A new school for Camden, as a community mourns the old one” (Oct. 22, 2016).
When I mentor Camden teens about making it as an entrepreneur, we talk about the importance of taking risks to achieve bigger goals, and being unsure or uncomfortable, but moving forward anyway. This is how I feel about the opportunity for Camden students to attend a new $133 million Camden High School campus.
Have residents been promised state money to improve Camden High before and been let down? Yes.
Will it be hard to see my alma mater, and that of my parents and so many friends, torn down? Of course.
Will the city lose an iconic building when the Tower falls? Sure.
However, as adults in this city, we must be willing to sit in that discomfort so we can build something better for today’s young people — a 21st century high school campus. Public school students in Camden deserve to go to school in modern facilities that rival what’s available in neighboring suburbs.
When I attended Camden High School, there were over 1,000 students in the building, and it was in much better shape. Today about half that many kids occupy the 300,000 square-foot building, and it has fallen into disrepair. When the city’s three public magnet high schools join the Panthers in the new Camden High building, more than 1,200 Camden students will attend a brand-new school with modern learning facilities.
Bringing our public high school students back together under one roof is exciting. It’s a chance to raise standards across the board and rebuild the positive school culture that existed when I was at Camden High.
The Schools Development Authority is planning specialized drill rooms for Camden High’s award-wininng JROTC program, and the Panthers’ championship-winning basketball team will finally have locker rooms with working showers and physical therapy space. Members of the Mighty Panthers Marching Band will again be under one roof, with all the students from Creative Arts High School on the same campus as Camden High.
I am not saying that the plan is perfect. But plans rarely are, and we have to move forward anyway. As a member of a Camden High Community Committee, I get regular updates on the school reconstruction project. That means I can hold the state, city, and district accountable for rebuilding our greatest public high school and give our kids the modern learning environment they deserve.
Those residents using the courts and lawsuits to halt construction don’t see that delaying the project will hurt our students. Instead of focusing on what we are losing, we should work together to make sure every dollar of that $133 million investment goes to making the best possible public high school for our students, and our city. Together we can preserve the history of The High while building a modern high school where students from across Camden go to realize their potential and get a firm foundation for success.
Rashaan Hornsby is a local entrepreneur, director of the Centerville Simbas Football Association, and a member of the Camden High Community Committee on Project Management.