CAMDEN, NJ — Members of one former Camden High School class are paying it forward decades later to forthcoming graduates.
A committee comprised of eight graduates from the Class of 1978 introduced the Riletta Twyne Cream Scholarship last week in honor of the beloved 40-year city educator and advocate. Cream died in December 2017 at age 91.
The inaugural $500 award went to a graduate of this year's class, JaJuan Hudson, who will be attending Bowling Green State University in the fall. A football star, Hudson signed a national letter of intent and plans to study psychology.
"Everyone who nominated and selected me for the award, I would like to give a big thanks to them. I greatly appreciate it," Hudson said after the official presentation at a Parkside community meeting on Wednesday, May 29. He was notified about being picked in early May.
Alumna Sarah Drummond said the scholarship is an investment in a student that demonstrates school spirit and "a drive for success." The committee made selections based on a minimum of 2.0 GPA and completed community service. Hudson was chosen from a final group of six CHS students.
After ideas first began to circulate in 2015, the group was finally able to see the plan realized this year, according to Drummond, also the financial manager of Parkside Business & Community in Partnership.
The inspiration had always pointed back to one person — Cream, the Camden native who empowered Drummond and her colleagues years ago as their school principal. The fund bears the Cream name as one of the countless reminders of her impact on the city.
" 'A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside of yourself,' " Drummond said in quoting Oprah Winfrey. "Our beloved Miss Riletta Twyne Cream embodied strength, character and grace. She was a mentor before the word had the meaning, and was the standard for teaching, guiding, and advising."
Drummond added that Cream "nurtured us through a temperament of no-nonsense that could not be challenged."
"She advocated not just for us as students and not just for the importance of education, but for the city of Camden as community leaders," Drummond continued.
Cream became principal of Camden High School in 1972, a role she held for 15 years. She was a graduate of the school herself in 1944. Drummond recalled that Cream "accepted us as we were."
"She allowed us to shine," Drummond said.
Funding for each year of the scholarship is in good hands. The committee members pledged to personally contribute money each month to reach the annual total.
"With each moment you are engaged with a young person, you have an opportunity to teach and learn," said Drummond, noting lessons of her former mentor. "More importantly, learning does not stop at high school graduation."