August 12, 2013 12:00 PM


Camden, N.J.

After Tawanda Jones’s local drill team shut down when she was 15, kids and parents massed outside her house and called on her to take it over. Some 25 years later, the Camden Sophisticated Sisters ( and its percussion squad have taught dance, drums and discipline to more than 4,000 kids and young adults. In a city beset by drugs and violence, every one of Jones’s kids has graduated; around 80 percent have gone to college. Jones, whose husband, Robert, teaches drums and whose three children participate, explains her success.

JONES: We help them get good grades, study and open their eyes to the world. They don’t have to be a statistic. It’s so easy to take them on a college tour or an overnight trip, and they become hooked. They know there is something better out there. I want them to leave Camden and then come back and uplift this city.

LIKESHA LOCKHART, 40: I’m a single mother to two girls. I’ve seen so much improvement in them. They come home and all they talk about is what Tawanda did. She is like their second mother. She’s a blessing.

TERON GREEN, 27: When I was 15, I was on my way to a gang initiation to rob an armed car, and I heard the drums. I went to check it out and never left. I started playing drums, was drill captain and now I mentor. Tawanda is Batman in Gotham City.


You May Like