Urban Prep grads celebrate signing day at Sox park

May 4, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Seniors at Chicago's Urban Prep Charter School learned which direction their lives will take.

The White Sox honored the accomplishments of over 100 young men. The students have attended an all-male charter school in one of school's toughest neighborhoods. Wednesday, the students were cheered for their successes so far and the possibilities ahead.

The young men are used to posing for photos. Wednesday the dignitary is Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel. These young men have been watched as Urban Prep Charter Academy for young men continues to defy the odds.

And now the school's second senior class: all graduates are going to four-year colleges or universities.

Each student is cheered as they announce their college admissions and the schools of their choice.

These soon to be graduates and college students stand out against the statistics for African-American young men from Chicago's Englewood neighborhood.

"Chicago Urban Prep's program is exactly right for our future as a city," said Emanuel. "It's right for your future and it's right for the city."

"You got these college hats and that's great. I'm proud of you. But, when you set foot on those campuses do so determined to make your way," said White Sox GM Kenny Williams.

Williams hosted the signing ceremony. Each Urban Prep graduate signs a book with their college of choice. It will be a book that Urban Prep hopes to chronicle thousands of graduates over the years.

"You are part of something bigger them yourselves, bigger than just you," said Urban Prep Academies CEO Tim King. "You are part of transforming our entire society."

Raheem Cooper-Thomas is the oldest of seven raised by his mom. He was accepted at 11 schools and he's going to Morehouse.

"I knew I could find someone to help me advance my skills. I think that was essential to get me from point A to Morehouse," said Cooper-Thomas.

Matthew Williams had 12 schools waiting for his answer. He will attend Cornell in the fall.

"It's helped me a lot," said Williams. "It's exposed me to a lot of opportunities that I may not have had if I went anywhere else."

Emanuel really likes the longer school day. He says, with an hour more of school each day, Urban Prep students got an extra year of education.

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