Tawanda Jones of Camden gives girls their marching orders. With her husband, Robert, Jones runs Camden Sophisticated Sisters, a dance, drum and step drill team that has become an outlet for thousands of children in the city. Started in 1986, Camden Sophisticated Sisters instills discipline and provides a window of opportunity toward a brighter future. The group practices at the base of Camden’s water tower and has gotten noticed, with appearances at local parades and on Dancing with the Stars and Good Morning America. Jones is hoping to find space for the organization to continue its missions as a safe haven. Since its inception, all 4,000 youngsters who participated in the program have graduated high school in a city in which the graduation rate is less than 50 percent. Jones’ accomplishments have not gone unnoticed — CNN honored her with its Hero of the Year Award.
The mission of the Camden Sophisticated Sisters Drill Team is to motivate, educate and empower youth through the structure and discipline of a drill team and the performing arts. CSS is a positive outlet for the youth of Camden. The members are provided with many opportunities to showcase their unique gifts and talents on local, regional, state and national levels. CSS teaches not only dance but also the power of education and the importance of service. The organization mandates that each member maintain a C average or better and complete at least 200 hours of community service annually.