How a Great School is Breaking the Cycle of Poverty in America's Poorest City

An "army" of parents fought to avoid sending their kids to Camden's traditional public schools.


HD Download

In the early 1990s, Gloria Bonilla-Santiago hatched a plan to create an alternative school for families in the impoverished city of Camden, New Jersey, who were desperate to avoid sending their kids to the city's abysmal public system.

She became deeply involved in building political support to pass the state's first charter school authorization bill. In 1996, the charter school bill passed, and the following year she opened a new school called LEAP in a vacant lot on the Camden waterfront.

Today, the school occupies 5 buildings on Cooper Street, offering its students a cradle to college education, and it's the most successful school in the city. While the four-year graduation rate in Camden's traditional public schools is 61 percent, LEAP has a graduation rate of 98 percent, and every member of its 2014 graduating class got into college.

LEAP kids |||

This profile of LEAP is the second in a three-part video series on Camden public schools. Click here to watch part one, which looks at a failed effort to fix Camden's schools by dramatically boosting spending. Click here watch part three, which looks at the recent initiative to remake public education in Camden by creating a hybrid model of traditional and charter schools.

Reason Foundation is a partner in National School Week, an annual event that draws attention to increasing educational options for K-12 students and their parents. For more information on resources and activities, including more than 10,000 events taking place nationwide between January 25-31, go here now.

About 5:30 minutes.

Shot, edited, produced and narrated by Jim Epstein. Production assistance from Brett Crudgington.

Scroll down for downloadable versions and subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube Channel to get automatic notifications when new stories go live.