First Urban Prep graduates all heading to college

June 12, 2010 (CHICAGO) That's 107 seniors.

Urban Prep opened four years ago in the Englewood neighborhood on the city's South Side. It's goal is to give young men from some of Chicago's toughest neighborhoods a chance to graduate-- not only from high school-- but from top colleges and universities, as well.

Friday, ABC7 reported on a city celebrating some very talented athletes who won a coveted trophy. Saturday night, we tell you about some unsung local heroes: young men who helped Urban Prep with an achievement few schools anywhere in the nation can claim.

Four years ago, 107 young men entered the school as freshmen. Saturday, all of them crossed the stage to receive their diplomas, and this fall, all 107 will be off to attend college.

The school has a simple motto: "We Believe."

"In those early days, I did not believe because, growing up in Englewood, I didn't see many examples of success. [It was] not until I got to Urban Prep that I began to understand the true meaning of brotherhood," said graduating salutatorian Rayvaughn Hines.

"Everyone who said we couldn't do it, this means we did it. We finally accomplished something," said Ahmad Wright, also a graduate.

Other graduates, like Tyler Beck, say the school's teachers and philosophy deserve much of the credit. After fours years, a young man at Urban Prep will have spent nearly 72,000 more minutes in class than the average Chicago public school student.

Teachers are available by cell phone and email around the clock. And students are expected to live up to the opportunities they are afforded.

A mixture of public money and private donations pays for everything from before-school activities to overseas trips.

"This works because [there are] people here who actually want to help young men," Beck said.

"For all of them to come out, it's just a blessing," mother Sheryl Eldon said.

For many Urban Prep families, Saturday's graduation marks a milestone after a detour taken out of traditional schools four years ago.

"I think the big difference is, as a child is making decisions in life, at Urban Prep, they were always preaching college, college, college from day one," father Jamal Cooper said.

Now, with diplomas in hand, the students head to university campuses around the nation, set to make their school and their families proud.

Northwestern, Morehouse, Howard University, Georgetown and the University of Illinois are just some of the schools Urban Prep grads will attend this fall. They're doing so after earning $4 million-worth of grants and scholarships.

Urban Prep will open its third Chicago campus this fall in the city's South Shore neighborhood.

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