A life of service

Former Camden educator and freeholder Riletta Cream says sharing is caring

Glenn Townes | 3/13/2017, 6:33 p.m.
It's an age old adage---reading is fundamental, yet one that native Camden resident and educator Riletta Cream has advocated for ...
Riletta Cream

It's an age old adage---reading is fundamental, yet one that native Camden resident and educator Riletta Cream has advocated for decades. As the former principal of her alma mater—Camden High School for 15 years and a Camden County freeholder for 11 years, the outspoken educator has led a life full of community and social activism in the city of Camden.

Shortly after she retired from Camden High School in 1987, Cream eventually received a call from a Camden County executive requesting that she join the political arena as a county freeholder. “I realized that we hadn’t had a library in Camden City in 100 years,” she said. After much discussion and fund-raising events, Cream's steadfast efforts ultimately led to the grand opening of the eponymous Riletta Cream Library in Camden 2011.

The outspoken educator extraordinaire seldom minces words when it comes to espousing the core secret to her personal and professional success. “If you want it, you have to work for it,” she said in a recent interview. She added, “Nowadays, people don't want to work for what they want, they expect it to be given to them and it doesn't work that way.” Cream has always worked. Prior to sitting at the helm of Camden High School, she held jobs at Campbell Soup Company, RCA Victor and worked as a bus girl. “It's not what you do, but what you do with what you get {money} from the work,” she said. Cream often sees many of her former students in downtown Camden---with many of them thanking her for her no nonsense approach to work and education. “They tell me, Mrs. Cream thank you for making us do {the work}—those are their words,” she said.

Cream celebrated her 90th birthday bash last November at Lucien's Manor in Berlin, NJ, that included some of New Jersey's biggest movers and shakers including Camden Mayor Dana Redd and prominent New Jersey business executive and Democratic leader George Norcross.

“Camden has a new library because of Riletta Cream,” Mayor Redd said.

Lastly, for Cream, who has been compared to other high profile and inspirational educators including Paterson, New Jersey principal Joe Clark and late Chicago school teacher Marva Collins, sharing is caring. In 2012, she donated $104,000 to Camden County College to establish the Riletta L. Cream Scholarship Fund. She said she will continue to give back to the people and the city of her beloved Camden long after she's gone. “It's in my will...in black and white,” she said. She added, “Do something for other people because people do things for you, so you have to take on that role and do the same thing.”