CAMDEN, NJ—Local officials, American Water volunteers and community members were at the new Camden Pride Academy Wednesday morning to pull weeds, plant flowers and paint hallways.

The effort was a partnership between the City of Camden, the Camden City School District  and American Water to clean up and beautify a number of district schools as the summer comes to and end and students get ready to head back to school.

Flowers, soil and paint for the event was donated by American Water, along with 10 of its employees volunteering their time to help out. The city donated equipment such as wheelbarrows and gardening tools.

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"You can really get tied up in the office day-to-day and not pay attention to your surroundings, and it takes events like this to get you out there and to really be a part of the bigger picture," Joseph Szafran, external affairs manager for American Water, said.

Mayor Frank Moran, who has held park cleanup events throughout the city this summer as part of his Team Up! Clean Up! Campaign, said that the city wanted to partner with the district to not only beautify the schools, but to make sure the corridors to the school were clean and safe as well.

“My administration is committed to continuing the progress to clean our city up because a safer and cleaner city is a vibrant city,” the mayor said. “It takes every resident in the city to do their part, to help us reclaim our city, rebuild our city and clean it up.”

Cleanups were also held at the Camden Big Picture Learning Academy and Camden High School’s temporary home at Hatch Middle School.

But at the Camden Pride Academy, the event helped further the revitalization of the old Camden Creative Arts Academy building on S. 6th Street into the home of a new school that will give students a second chance at graduation.

The academy is a new CCSD transitional and accelerated program for middle and high students facing behavior challenges, or in need of additional credit recovery and support to make it to graduation. In previous years, the school district has operated a similar transitional program out of the same building. The school is expected to serve 250 students in its first year.

Katrina McCombs, interim CCSD superintendent, said that Wednesday’s clean up will hopefully show the academy’s students that the community is invested in their success.

“So much so that we can come together, roll up our sleeves and make everything as comfortable for them as absolutely possible, so when they walk back into the building they will feel a sense of renewal and hope,” McCombs said.

The principal of Camden Pride Academy, Jonathan Ogbonna, agreed, and said the cleanup event was needed.

“To show our students who are coming in, and those who were here before, that the community, the city, everybody is concerned and they are supportive of what they are doing here,” Ogbonna said.

Students at the academy will have individual lesson plans, case managers and small class sizes to help make them get on track for graduation.

The first day of school in the CCSD is Sept. 6.