Michelle’s Friday Project Update: Camden Sophisticated Sisters

Welcome to the 1st ever Friday Project Update!

In an effort to share more information with you regarding the status of GO’s grantmaking, I am going to share one story about a specific project and its current implementation status each Friday.

Over the course of the next 52 weeks, I hope to provide you with glimpses of the real impact of GO’s grantmaking on the lives of the children in the communities where we work.

Organization: Camden Sophisticated Sisters

Location: Camden, New Jersey

(Don’t forget to check out the video link at the bottom of the page to see the kids in action!)


Camden has been called the murder capital of the U.S., but for the residents of the city there are more issues to face than the gangs, drugs, and violence that plague the streets. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 42% of Camden’s population is living below the poverty line, making it one of the poorest cities in the United States. The New Jersey Department of Education reports that nearly 90% of Camden’s schools are in the bottom 5% performance-wise in the state.


It is here that GO’s Local Hero, Tawanda Jones, is trying to entice youth to stay off the street and do something positive with their lives through dance. Tawanda, now 42 and a mother of four, started Camden Sophisticated Sisters (CSS) as a teenager. She runs the organization alongside her husband who is in charge of the group’s drumline. In the 27 years since its founding, the couple has mentored hundreds of Camden youth. The group was initially started to help girls; it has now expanded to include boys who also need a positive outlet to express themselves.

Current Status:

Last December, GO awarded CSS a grant of $14,280 to rent practice space for the program to run while they renovate the building which was purchased to permanently house their program. Prior to this purchase, CSS was working out of donated or public spaces. Program funds were disbursed to the organization on Jan. 6th, and I am happy to share that the youth are enjoying their temporary practice space.

Check out video they shared from a recent practice.