I left my Camden, New Jersey classroom after three years of teaching 7th and 8th grade science. In August of 2008 I moved to Cambridge to earn a Master’s Degree in City Planning from MIT.
I knew my educational journey would be grounded in the fact that my students were smart, talented, and full of potential but lived in an environment that lacked opportunities. Even if they could work hard and earn straight A’s, what future was there for them in Camden?
For the next six months, I will use this blog to chronicle my masters thesis research on one avenue to greater opportunity: small business development. My students had entrepreneurial skills, but are these enough to overcome the barriers to small business development found in Camden and similar post-industrial cities? What does it take to be a successful minority or woman small business owner? And how can these businesses be positively affected by a federal administration with renewed interest in urban policy?
What will follow in the weeks ahead is a chronicling of both the process of writing a master’s thesis and my experiences working in Camden once again. The public knows this city through the lens of negative press – a city marked by corruption, failed politics, and violence. But I want to share a different part of the city’s current story. It is a narrative about resident resiliency despite set backs, hard work, and small victories that I first witnessed as a teacher and am sure to rediscover as a researcher. For those of you interested in case-based or urban research, I hope these posts offer insight into the thesis writing process. More importantly, I hope they inspire your interest in Camden.