In a city plagued by violence, Urban Prep Academies helps its young men achieve their dreams.
Seniors from Urban Prep Academies, an all-male public charter school in Chicago, had reason to celebrate again this year. For the eighth consecutive year 100 percent of the school’s graduating class is headed off to college.
For a city with a history of gang activity and violent crime, Urban Prep’s success is no mean feat. The charter school network, which has three campuses, offers an oasis of hope for its young students in the midst of a world of violence and despair.
Chicago has made national headlines for its shocking murder statistics — in 2016, the city saw 762 murders (a dramatic increase from the still high 468 reported murders in 2015). Urban Prep itself has not been immune to the city’s violence, with eight students or alumni killed since 2015, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Founded in 2002, the public charter school serves a lower income population — about 85 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch. According to the Tribune, many started school reading at least two grades behind.
Tim King, founder and CEO of network of Urban Prep Academies, attributes some of the students’ success to the positive role models they see at the school.
“It’s tough to be what you don’t see. So it’s important that young people seek out positive role models and examples of excellence,” King told The Epoch Times.
Students wear a uniform shirt, tie and blazer each school day, and recite the Urban Prep Creed each morning.
“It is a statement of what we want our students to believe—an articulation of our core values or resilience, relentlessness, integrity, solidarity, exceptionality, selflessness, accountability, and faith,” King said. “Words have power. By saying the creed daily, our students embody the ideals it represents.”
At a signing ceremony at Daley Plaza, each young man stepped onstage before a large crowd of friends and family to announce where which college he had selected.“Our students received 1,500 letters of admission from over 170 colleges and universities,” said King, according to an ABC-7 report
DeAndre Jones, who will be attending Illinois State University, told ABC-7, “”From where I come from not a lot of people go to college but my family, having a strong support system. They pushed me.”
In a poignant reminder of the odds stacked against these students, one senior, Yuri Hardy, who was shot dead last December, was honored during the ceremony. His mother was presented with a tie symbolizing the next academic step.
“It is tremendous what they have to go through every day and they still come to school. They still want to pursue this dream of going to college,” King said.