Against All Odds

Englewood is not a place that usually attracts attention for its successes.  Though located not far from the University of Chicago and the former Obama home, news about the South Side Chicago neighborhood is often grim, telling a story of striking poverty, crime, and gang violence.

Against all odds, Urban Prep— the city’s only public all-male, all-African American high school—has recently announced that 100 percent of its first senior class has been accepted to four-year colleges.  “There were those who told me you can’t defy the data,” said Tim King, the Englewood academy’s founder (who was also born and raised in the neighborhood). “Black boys are killed. Black boys drop out of high school. Black boys go to jail. Black boys don’t go to college. Black boys don’t graduate from college.”

“They were wrong.”

At Urban Prep, academic rigor and aspiration for higher education are integral aspects of every day school life.  Students at Urban Prep attend longer school days than students at other city schools and take more than double the usual number of English credits (a necessary endeavor since only four percent of this year’s senior class read at grade level as freshman).  Students are also assigned to a college counselor from their first day of school, who support students throughout the entire college application and acceptance process.

The story of this Englewood academy is a reminder to those in public health that successful interventions are a community-driven, concerted effort and require thoughtful input of resources at multiple levels over long periods of time. The achievement of the young men at Urban Prep is an inspirational reminder to those in public health that breaking barriers is possible, that goals are one day attainable, and that the fight to break the cycle of generational poverty is a hopeful one.

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