Bria Pierre of Camp YDP. Photo provided

Apostles in our Midst: Bria Pierre and Camp YDP

October 5, 2017 | | GNJ News, Next Generation Ministries

A 2017 Series on Apostolic Leadership in GNJ

Mission: On the corner of 1st and Arch in Paterson, NJ, the mission is children. CAMP YDP (A Community Association with a Ministry to People – Youth Development Program) is a full-day preschool, afterschool enrichment program, and full-day summer camp. Over 60 years ago, United Methodist Rev. Maxwell Tow founded the camp to serve as a safe haven for single mothers and low-income families. Presently, in partnership with Greater New Jersey, CAMP YDP has transformed into a children-centered mission, focusing on creating a space where students feel empowered, nurtured, and enriched.

In the heart of a city plagued by crime and poverty, students are still excited to come to CAMP, and Executive Director Bria Pierre counts that as a blessing.

“They are dealing with a lot of things in the outside world,” she said. “We want CAMP to be a place where they feel respected, so that’s what we strive to do. We can’t do it alone. It’s important that we all work together.”

Not only does CAMP provide an enriching learning experience for students, it also serves as a resource for students’ families. They’ve partnered with CUMAC, another United Methodist affiliated nonprofit based in Paterson working to alleviate hunger, and are able to offer food to their families every Wednesday.

CAMP depends on the tuition dollars from the families of students, yet 80% of these families experience low-income. For this group of students, tuition is subsidized by the state but the program is dependent on funding.  Pierre and her staff work to create new programming that attracts students of different backgrounds to the school to help balance out their overhead costs.

Pierre’s goal is to continue growing CAMP. Not only are funding relationships important, but so are cultivating relationships with other nonprofits and members of the Paterson community.

“We always need finances, but more so, we need people to get involved,” said Pierre. “We need people to become a part of the change and movement that is creating a better Paterson. If you have an idea for an enrichment class, come teach it. Come work in our community garden. Money is great, we need it, but it’s also important for our children to know that people care, so your presence is important.”

Apostle: Bria Pierre has a long history in education, teaching preschool for over ten years. After taking a break from her career to have and raise her children, Pierre was itching to get back to work and give back to the community. Evaluating what might be the best fit for her at the time, she decided to explore job opportunities in Georgia to be closer to her mother.   At the same time, she learned about the opportunity to serve at CAMP YDP from her church, St. Mark’s UMC in Montclair.

During her interview, Pierre learned that CAMP was struggling with only 30 students enrolled. This kept her up for two days thinking about ways to increase enrollment and how to teach the 30 children to strive and push forward.

“That became my mission,” said Pierre.

Pierre and her staff worked to update programs and secure new opportunities for students.  In less than a year, the school grew from an enrollment of 30 to reach capacity at 115 students.  It doesn’t stop there. CAMP will be adding another classroom this year to help grow the program further.

Pierre has seen God at work at CAMP in more ways than she can count. It’s the small things that have touched her and help to validate her work.

“We took the kids ice skating about three miles from Paterson,” she shared. “Three miles makes a difference. Some of them have never been outside of this five block radius where all they see is violence and drugs. To see hope grow where there was no hope, that makes it all worth it. We just know that God has a purpose for us and for the work that we’re doing. It’s all for God’s glory!”