Chicago charter school sends all grads to college

June 4, 2010 5:21:12 PM PDT
All of this year's graduates at Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men are going to college. The school is located on the city's South Side.

The experiment involved taking young African-American men from some of Chicago's toughest neighborhoods with 85 percent living below poverty and 90 percent from single parent household and have them all college bound. There was plenty of skepticism. But today skeptics are silenced by their success.

The group of young men just finished finals and next week they graduate from Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men. All 107 seniors of the all-boys public school are not only graduating but are going to college.

"If I were at another school, I don't think I would have accomplished this. I feel they really helped me," said Milan Byrdwell, Urban Prep senior.

Urban Prep opened four years ago in Englewood to give options to young men in some of Chicago's most disenfranchised communities. For two seniors, they will be the first in their families to go to college.

"I'm glad I had the support to continue these years to do achieve these goals and be the best I can be," said Jamil Boldian, Urban Prep senior.

Four years ago ABC7 met Anthony Ponder as a freshman.

"The schools I came from, they weren't talking about that, they were always talking about something other than getting an education. That's why I like this school," said Ponder in 2006.

Today, Ponder is heading to Illinois State University.

"A lot of them are not staying in school at my old school. And a lot of them who are still in school are not going to college. A few young ladies that I went to school with have numerous children. I see how much Urban Prep has affected my life because it makes me think what that would be. What if I didn't go to Urban Prep. Would I have kids? Would I still be in school? " said Ponder.

"These young men have wanted this for themselves and they put in the time and the effort and made the sacrifices necessary in order to achieve," said Tim King, Urban Prep founder.

Urban Prep students have a creed they recite every morning reminding them of their goals. Their creed begins: "We believe. We are the young men of Urban Prep. We are college bound. We are exceptional-not because we say it, but because we work hard at it." And to motivate these teens there's some healthy competition. College acceptance letters line walls inspiring the next class success is achievable.

The seniors graduate next Saturday. Last fall, Urban Prep opened a West Side campus and next fall a campus will open in the South Shore neighborhood.


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