Editor's Note: The contest deadline has been extended to March 11.

CAMDEN, NJ — With T-minus 34 days until the nationwide census count, Camden Schools have a T-shirt contest underway to boost student involvement and remind the city of the decade-impacting tally.

“We were brainstorming about cool ways that we could involve the parents and the students together,” Sheena Yera, communications manager with the Camden School District, told TAPinto Camden. 

Sign Up for Camden Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

The deadline for the contest is March 11 with participants encouraged to showcase their design talents with a “one-of-a-kind” logo focused on the count. The winning design will be recognized by the school district, as well as city officials.

During the Camden School District's advisory board meeting Tuesday, the importance of the census was much on the minds of board members and Camden Superintendent Katrina McCombs.

“We've all heard a lot about Census 2020 and it's so important that we make sure that everyone is counted,” McCombs said during her report at the start of the meeting. “The census provides critical data that nominators, business owners, teachers and many others use to provide daily services, products and support for you and your community. Every year billions of dollars in federal funding go to hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads and other resources based on census data.”

On April 1, roughly half a million census workers will commence a count that spans the entire country with $675 billion in annual allocated funds hanging in the balance. 

Funds are also used for public health and transportation improvements. 

The census data determines the number of voting seats a state gets in the House of Representatives and the electoral college. Following the 2010 count, New Jersey was among those that lost a congressional seat.

City and countywide efforts

Freeholder Carmen Rodriguez, who is leading census efforts in the city, has outlined undocumented individuals, children under five and the homeless population as groups that are often undercounted. 

For anyone that is wary on what information they provide, she assured that the count does not ask for a person’s Social Security number, anything on behalf of a political party or their bank or credit card number.

Among this year’s census inquiries (which are also available in Spanish): the number of people living or staying in your home, whether your home is owned or rented, the sex, age and race of each person in your home, whether the person in your home is Hispanic, Latino or of Spanish origin, and the relationship of each person in your home.

“We need to understand that the census is extremely important,” said Camden school board member Falio Leyba-Martinez, who offered to help any parent or community member that needs assistance with anything census-related. “It really factors into what money we get in our district [and] what money we get in our city. For those who don’t know, Camden is one of the ‘hard-to-count’ cities and we need to change that this year.”

Proponents are hopeful for 2020 as the census will comprise more online components than a decade ago — including the ability to avoid a mail-in survey altogether for the first time since 1790.

Camden County is also working to round out the approximate 3,000 part-time workers it needs for the census — increasing the hourly rate last month to $18. 

“The census is one of the most consequential events to impact our community each decade, so we need to make sure that we are counting every person in [the county],” said Rodriguez, who is also liaison to the Department of Health and Human Services. “Census jobs are perfect for folks in between jobs or who are looking to supplement their income after work. Census taker positions are temporary and flexible and provide a great opportunity to support your community while adding to your income.”

Yera, who handles multimedia for the school district, said anyone that submits to the T-shirt contest must be in grades K-12 in Camden. 

First, second and third-place prizes will be awarded and the top winner will have their logo printed on T-shirts distributed throughout the district. 

She also said that teachers will speak with students and parents about the importance of filling out the count. On April 1, Camden school children will also be sent home with stickers that read something to the effect of “I Count, You Know” as a final reminder.

Organizers expect that following the school contest, it will expand to the city and county.

To submit to the T-shirt contest, send your logo idea to CommsFACETeam@camden.k12.nj.us.

Find TAPinto Camden on Facebook and Twitter. Download the TAPinto mobile app for Android or iOS.