Breaking Down Camden Cliches with Alexander Dossantos

Alex stands on Bunce Green overlooking Bunce Hall.

Today we speak with senior Alexander Dossantos, a first-generation college student and dual Theatre major with a concentration in Tech and Design and Art major with a concentration in Studio Art. Alex works full-time for One Theatre and several other venues in Philadelphia while remaining a part-time commuting student. Alex proudly hails from Camden, NJ (Camden County) and is part of the Photography Club.

Is there anything you can share as a resident of Camden to dispel the negative stereotypes or talk about your experience? 

Rutgers and Rowan have been taking the time, effort and resources to make it as safe as possible and to clean up downtown Camden and turn it back into what it used to be.

Alex looks away on Bunce Green.

A lot of people hear “Camden” and think that there’s still violence and shooting. I sit there and think “Camden used to be the number 1 most dangerous city.” It’s nowhere near the top 10 anymore. Between the police force — being torn down to the basics and being built back up — Rutgers, Rowan, Camden County Community College, Campbell Soup and Subaru, they’re bringing business back. A lot of what people here is old news.

Alex sits on a bench on Bunce Green.

Yes, there are still parts that are iffy but they are nowhere near where the campus is. I had a good childhood. 

What are some of the things you liked to do growing up? 

I’ve always played baseball. I started playing tee-ball when I was 5 or 6. I played all the way up until I came here. Sports don’t really line up with theatre because of our schedule with theatre. It never lined up for me to even try out for the baseball team or any club sports. That was a sacrifice I had to make. I like working on cars. When I wasn’t playing baseball or hanging out with friends, I was working on cars.

Anything to add about Camden?

What it comes down to is that you get out what you put in. If Rutgers and Rowan weren’t putting in so much effort and money, Camden would still have that really bad reputation. All of the good business and all the people are coming back, it’s making it a place where you can be proud to come from. I don’t hide it.

I’m proud that I was born and raised in Camden. Now, I’m at a university. Anywhere you go, you’ll find the bad things if you look hard enough. The bad things shouldn’t outweigh the good that’s coming out from it too.

Alex stands in front of a large tree on Bunce Green.

I personally went to a youth group growing up and that helped me get to a good place in my work ethic right now [where] I love to learn. Their program is growing and growing. They help more students and kids [get] away from that stereotype [of], “Oh you come from Camden, you amount to nothing.” [And finally get] to, “I live in Camden. I’m proud that I live in Camden. Now, I’m a proud student or graduate of a university.”

How come you did not choose a course on the Camden Campus? 

I was part of a test program for Camden High School students where they let the senior students take college courses in high school. I was part of the engineering program at Camden County Technical School on Berlin Cross Keys. [Technically], I transferred in with credits but I came here as a freshman.  

Alex looks away on Bunce Green.

They didn’t offer the programs I was looking at when I applied. I applied to the theatre department and the engineering department. They said I have to choose one or the other. I had a conversation with someone from my school about the whole engineering career path and we discovered that it really wasn’t what I wanted to do. What I wanted to do related more to theatre because I always wanted to be part of the design process but also the fabrication process. So [becoming] a theatre technician was the way I wanted to go. 

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Story by: 
Marian Suganob, public relations and advertising graduate

Photos by:
Stephanie Batista, junior music industry major

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