Dan Rhoton: The Secret Behind His Passion For The Youth Of Camden

/ September 5, 2018

In episode #1 of Shades of Success I got the opportunity to interview Dan Rhoton the Executive Director of Hopeworks ‘N Camden. Dan Rhoton has been working with local youth for the past two decades as a teacher, school administrator, and organizational leader. He has received numerous awards for his work and now holds the ambitious position of Executive Director at one of Camden’s most impactful non-profit organizations. Dan Rhoton is a leader in the City of Camden and dedicated to empowering the next generation of leaders.

Dan Rhoton

Over the years, Dan Rhoton has been recognized numerous times for his work with young people. He received the Meritorious Service Award from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He was named the Distinguished Educator of the Year for Eastern North America. In 2016, Hopeworks was recognized as non-profit of the year for South Jersey and Philadelphia. In 2017, he was recognized as one of Nationswell Tech Impact All-Stars as well as the Stephen Ries Community Advocate of the Year Award from the United Way.

Hopeworks ‘N Camden

As a Hopeworks alumni, I wanted to highlight how they change the lives of underprivileged youth who have experienced trauma and lack of access to resources for a bright future. Hopeworks has been able to help hundreds of youth in the area and is growing daily. The organization recently moved into a new space in order to keep up with the high demand of trainees. The program includes web design, life readiness skills, and trauma training.
The common goal that you notice amongst the youth is that everyone is striving towards a better future. Hopeworks will allow you to break out of your comfort zone and grow personally and professionally through the help of Dan Rhoton and staff. Hopeworks has literally taken kids off the street, and from broken homes and helped them build a sustainable life. Complete with secure employment, housing, and a support network that will last a lifetime.

Interview timestamps

07:54 – How do you measure the impact of the work that you do? 

“Measuring impact shouldn’t be a broad statement; I try to measure it by this simple question: Do we keep our promise? When a young person comes into HopeWorks, we say, “We’re going to help you turn your life around, get a job and live the life that you want to live.” After all that, did we do so? And more importantly, how many young people have we NOT done it for? What we measure is whether the person is in that high wage job, and living the life they want. If the answer is ‘Yes’ far more often than ‘No’, then we’re doing it right. If the answer is ever No – even once – then we need to figure out why that is.”

17:02 – What are some tips that you can give to other leaders out there on exceptional leadership?

“The one thing that I would say is that it’s your fault. If your team isn’t performing, hold them accountable for their actions. You are responsible for your team’s performance. If you can take credit for when your team wins, you also need to take the hit for when your team loses. You also need to remember that no-one wants to be bad at their job. When I talk to some leaders, they believe that there’s some sort of conspiracy with their employees behind any possible shortcomings in the team’s overall success. I say if your employees don’t fully understand what it takes to be successful, then it’s your (the leader’s) fault.”

25:06 – What are some actionable steps that people listening here can take to make a positive impact in their community?

“I think the most important thing is to recognize that the greatest contribution they can have is only after listening to folks that aren’t like them. Folks that want to help, but refuse to listen, tend to not do anything – or it could even be harmful. Come visit us at HopeWorks. Sit down with some young people and listen to them. Allow them to teach you something; only then you can figure an ideal way to help them out.”

Penji’s Partnership with Hopeworks

At Penji we are proud to consider Hopeworks N’Camden a preferred partner for all of our clients’ development needs. As a result, we are able to further fulfill our local mission to help students and residents in the city of Camden obtain high paying jobs and the necessary education they need to have a successful career.
If you’re a non-profit in Camden, please fill out an application for Penji for Nonprofits. This program allows you to obtain Penji’s services at a discounted rate for all that qualify.

Updated September 5, 2018

About the author

Sekinah Brodie is the Director of Partnerships at Penji. She enjoys writing and constantly learning about technology, entrepreneurship, and diversity in startups. She strives to empower women and minorities with job opportunities, career development, and positive representation. She recently launched an interview based podcast called “Shades of Success” that highlights individuals who champion diversity and positive community impact.

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