Citywide Education Progress Reports

CAMDEN: Nonprofit’s New Trauma Model Key to Student Success

An unassuming row house in Camden has been training youth in coding for nearly two decades. The young people who come to Hopeworks Camden are 17 to 25 years old: dropouts, victims of violence, or struggling to stay in college or jobs. After a short training, youth are placed in an internship with one of Hopeworks enterprises or internship partners. At the end of the internship, Hopeworks places interns with local employers. If youth want to go to college instead, Hopeworks staff are on hand to help them navigate the process.

But for many years, two-thirds of all youth would finish their training only to drop out of the internship, job, or college courses.

After looking at their low success rate, leadership pivoted to focus on students and their experiences. To do that, the nonprofit added new staff roles and changed how services were delivered so that everything—from tech training to employment support—was infused with a trauma-informed approach.

Now, when youth come to the row house for training classes, Hopeworks asks how they are doing and what kind of support they need. Since incorporating a trauma model into their education programming, Hopeworks’ success rates have risen to 90%, which means students complete their internship and go on to college or a job. Companies are coming to the nonprofit asking to be internship partners. The director, Dan Rhoton, says there is no secret sauce: “Connecting with kids where they are, helping them heal, and giving them skills. That’s it—that’s the whole trick.”

View Camden’s citywide education progress report.

The Center on Reinventing Public Education is a research and policy analysis center at the University of Washington Bothell developing systemwide solutions for K–12 public education. Questions? Email