Camden schools boast comeback

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

The football locker room at Woodrow Wilson High School brings back memories for senior Diquese Young.  The game is what motivated him to do better in school.

Earlier in a classroom, he explained he was on the wrong path and had several run-ins with the law.

“I wasn’t going to no classes, I just kept skipping,” said Young.

After his freshman year in high school, Young tried out for the football team.

“I told him, ‘hey listen, I appreciate all the hard work that you put in on the football field, but unfortunately you didn’t pass any classes,'” said Preston Brown who is a dean of students, football coach and Wilson High graduate.

Brown is one of six children who all have different stories even though they grew up in the same house.

“I was a high academic kid. And I was an All-American athlete. Three of us graduated from college out of the six. One got murdered at 20, another one did 10 years in prison, and my sister, she was the only girl, she struggled a little bit academically and she had a baby early at 17,” said Brown.

He says he did have his struggles, too, in middle school, but it was a mentor who helped him change his life.

“Growing up in Camden and places like this, everybody is one decision away from losing it all,” said Brown.

That’s why he teaches students you have to be disciplined, you have to stay the course, and you have to stay committed.

“So when he sees younger kids in the school doing the same stuff, he can share his story the way I share mine with them,” Brown said.

The superintendent of Camden Schools says they were very intentional in hiring people who had roots in the city. The method seems to be working because since he started in 2013, the dropout rate has been cut in half. As for graduation rates, they’re up from 49 to 66 percent.

“There will always be consequences for breaking rules, but our knee-jerk reaction shouldn’t always be to send kids home because they act out. It should just be instead to understand what triggered a kid acting out in school,” said Superintendent Rouhanifard.

Young was one of 30 students recognized for overcoming adversity at a ceremony.

Coach Preston Brown gave Young advice he uses in the locker room — write out goals so you can visualize them.

“You look around, we have ‘practice like champions,’ ‘none of us is as strong as all of us,’ and that’s what they see before they walk out the door to the practice field,” said Brown.

Diquese Young’s goal of playing football: accomplished. His goal of becoming a CEO one day: on track. The high school senior was accepted into several state universities.