(page 5 of 5)
Tim King, the founder and CEO of Urban Prep. See more photos in the gallery >>
URBAN PREP CHARTER ACADEMY FOR YOUNG MEN
6201 South Stewart Avenue
At the start of each school day at Urban Prep, the entire student body, all male, line up on the ground floor of the former Englewood High School. Each student wears a blazer with a crest that says Credimus: We Believe. For the educators who run the place, those words are more than just a slogan. “When our first class started, statistics told us that about 34 percent of black male CPS students graduate from high school,” says Tim King, the founder and CEO of Urban Prep. “Our students are significantly outperforming that. Seventy-nine percent of them are on track to graduate” in 2010—the first class of Urban Prep graduates.
The difference, King says, lies not only in the school’s laser-beam focus on academics, but also in its emphasis on providing role models for black male success. At the morning assembly, called “community,” teachers call up students who have done well on a test or have distinguished themselves in another way. They confer on them the honor of wearing a gold tie for a week in place of the school’s standard red tie. Every student is addressed as “Mr.” and handshakes are common in the hallways. School leaders have enthusiastically embraced a CNN reporter’s description of Urban Prep students as “Little Obamas.”
“About 85 percent of our students are from single-parent families, the vast majority of them headed by females,” King says. “So many of these students come to us without positive male role models, and when they’re out in their neighborhoods they see the opposite all around them.” Respect from others, he suggests, cultivates self-respect—and self-respect helps a young man focus on the academics that will help him rise above his circumstances.
“We are building strong applicants who will have good grades and ACT scores and extracurriculars,” says Kenneth Hutchinson, a school counselor. “They can think critically, analytically, deeply about the world around them. But they have also learned self-discipline, and they have learned what kind of impact people have on each other and on their community.”
GRADES: 9-11 (will add a senior class in the fall)
STUDENTS PER TEACHER: 13
COMPOSITE ACT SCORE (2007-08): First junior class takes exam this month.
SNAPSHOT: Positive male role models, self-discipline (and black blazers), and a laser-beam focus on academics characterize this all-male school.