Camden's Little Citizens With Big Dreams

Immediately, Ivan started looking around in awe at the cabinets stocked with food, the new bed lined with Superman sheets and the pretty curtains that hung from the window. He was speechless, but the smile on his face said it all.

"It is something to call our own," said his mother, Precious. "I'm happy because they are happy."

At school, the once-scared kindergartener proudly showed off the reading award he received on the last day of school. "He's been a pleasure," said his teacher. "He is the ideal student."

This was a new beginning for Ivan's mother as well. She enrolled in a GED course and made a life plan — she wants to study nursing.

When "20/20" returned to visit Ivan a few months later, the change was dramatic. He was active — constantly jumping on the bed and riding his bike — and looked healthy, even putting on a few pounds. His brother, Imere, would start crying if he had to leave the new happy home.

"We made it," said Precious. "To God and all the supporters, I'm grateful."

Ivan, now in the first grade, continues to blossom academically. "I got a book to read to you," he told Sawyer. His next mission? "I'm going to save the city," he said.

More Shining Stars in Camden

Camden is still a city in need of saving. For every child you met in our first report, there are thousands of others with just as much promise and just as much need. Children like Mayesha, Ci-Monie, Xavier and many others who hear gunshots at night and want nothing more than to make their neighborhood safe. These children dream of becoming doctors, lawyers, police officers and firefighters — careers derived from their own experiences in Camden. Click here to meet more children from Camden.

Eleven-year-old Rashida's older sister was shot and killed just two weeks before her high school graduation. "She was going to be a doctor," said Rashida. "My mom cries all the time. Every day my mom cries about it. But sometimes … I just have to put it aside. Don't think about it."

Every day, on her way to school, Rashida walks by the corner where her sister was murdered and worries whether someone in her family will be next.

"Camden is not a nice place," she said. "I just want to move out."

Last year, Wade's mother suddenly died, forcing the high school senior to live on his own. "Finance is the hardest thing for me, because I don't have anyone to help me," he said.

Wade is working through the grief to pursue his dream of becoming a music therapist, even though playing the piano reminds him of the mother he loved and misses so much.

When asked to envision the happiest possible day in their lives, many children in Camden started with "dad out of jail." Kids like A'lirra, 10, and Edwin, 8, pray for the day their respective fathers are released from prison.

"Sometimes we hold up our palm to glass," said Edwin of the plastic partition that separates him and his dad. "That feels like you're touching him."

Xavier, who is in the second grade and loves math, said his happiest day was when the neighborhood church reopened, providing him with a secure place to do his homework every night. All little Valeska wishes for is "a pink-and-red bike with white wheels."

But for some of Camden's youth, the crime and despair that surrounds them has left them without hope. "I don't have any wish," said 13-year-old Radee. "I don't have a best day in my life."

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