Caleb Camp’s Instagram page
is flooded with inspiration — impeccable images of him posing around town and videos with motivational messages. One video includes a reflection on a passage from Jeremiah 29, verse 11:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Caleb, who goes by the moniker J. Stewart on Instagram, says the passage resonates with him because it conveys that we must believe, have faith and be ready for our blessings when they come.
“They’re already set on the table for you,” he says. “It’s about you being ready for them and being ready to receive them. We can’t live our life each and every day being scared of what the future’s going to bring and not going out and taking risks …”
Caleb, 23, shows he isn’t afraid to infuse his Catholic faith into what he shares on social media. Some of his followers are friends in real life, while others aren’t. Either way, it doesn’t matter, as the St. Alphonsus Liguori “Rock” parishioner says everything he does in life is guided by these three things, in order: God, family and purpose.
Caleb is building his presence as a positive influencer and motivational speaker on social media. He created a podcast, “Don’t Let Go of the Wheel,” which grew from a motivational talk he gave as a broadcast journalism student at Western Illinois University. The university later asked him to create motivational minute videos for its social media accounts.
Faith becomes part of his content when he knows the timing is right and fits with the message he’s trying to convey. “Religion and faith for a lot of people is a touchy subject,” he says. “Throwing it at people can kind of throw people off and push people away, but when I incorporate it, I incorporate it because know I want to and I know other people will relate to it as well. It brings an extra push to the message that I am trying to put out there.”
Hold on to the wheel
At Western Illinois, Caleb joined the Black Male Achievement Network, an organization for undergraduate students. Caleb describes the organization as a brotherhood and a support with the academic and social aspects of university life.
“We focused on the uplifting of African-American males and being an image on campus that other males coming in under us could follow and be part of,” says Caleb. “We focused a lot on brotherhood, being together and getting through college together. It was the greatest decision I made, joining that organization.”
In 2018, he gave a motivational talk to the group about staying focused in the midst of achieving their goals. He used the analogy of holding on to a steering wheel, with three parts to it: your goals and dreams in life, you as a person and your “why” in life. The message resonated with members. During the pandemic last year, Caleb had some extra free time and broke down parts of that talk into an eight-part podcast, “Don’t Let Go of the Wheel.”
“If you let go of the steering wheel, you’re going to swerve and you’re going to be in a different lane, and you’re not going to be focused,” he says. “Holding on to that steering wheel is pretty much holding on to your life. It’s staying focused and working hard to be able to achieve those things.”
Caleb has taken a creative approach with his online identity, using the nickname J. Stewart. It’s a nod to the second part of what guides him in life: family. The “J” stands for Joseph, his middle name. Stewart, though, is a tribute to his mom, whose maiden name is Stewart, and also his grandfather’s last name. “Everybody says I am his twin and look exactly like him,” he says. “Stewart is part of my blood and identity. I wanted something that would still be part of my identity, but something to be creative with.”
Now that he’s graduated from college and is back home, Caleb is becoming more active at St. Alphonsus “Rock” Parish, where he grew up. A graduate of Catholic schools, including St. Margaret of Scotland School and CBC High School, he recalls playing the role of baby Jesus at Christmas midnight Mass as a kid, singing in the youth choir, serving as a lector and altar server and more.
As an adult, he is involved in reviving the parish’s youth ministry program and is helping edit the parish online magazine, along with the parish’s livestreaming efforts. He says its a way of giving back to a community that had given him the spiritual nourishment he needed as he was growing up and grounded him in his approach to life. “I’ve been here all my life, been involved all my life,” he says.
Better life for the next generation
After graduation, Caleb was hired at Better Family Life, a nonprofit community development corporation based in north St. Louis that works to stabilize urban neighborhoods. The organization serves children and adults, including those who are underemployed, unemployed and skill-deficient, with programming that focuses on economics, housing, workforce development, education, youth, social, culture and the arts.
Caleb works as a youth specialist in the Youth, Family & Clinical Services Department. One of his jobs has been coordinating the Youth Leadership Academy, which helps develop leadership skills in young people as they prepare for the next phase of their lives. Programming is offered throughout the summer as well as during the school year.
Caleb has participated in Better Family Life youth programming from the time he was 8 years old, so he personally sees the impact it has had on himself and his peers.
“It’s definitely a family atmosphere,” he says of the community. “It’s giving them somebody who will listen to them, and for them to know they have somebody who will be there for them. We want to be a guiding light.”
Caleb, of course, helps manage the youth department’s Instagram page, and he’s keenly aware of keeping a positive message in front of the community that follows that platform.
“As much negativity as we have in this world, if people can bring a positive, bright light to somebody’s life, if i can do that for somebody, then that’s my goal,” he says. While the number of likes and followers don’t matter as much to him, “if I can brighten somebody’s day, put a smile on somebody’s face and give them the courage and motivation to keep going each day … and be the best version of yourself, that’s really what matters.”
“As much negativity as we have in this world, if people can bring a positive, bright light to somebody’s life, if I can do that for somebody, then that’s my goal.”