An Island of Hope

In a sea of bad news from around the world, I came across this tiny island of hope. For a year now the Urban Prep Charter Academy has been offering a different path to young African-American males in one of the poorest and violent neighborhoods in Chicago.

If success is to be defined by the lives that these boys to young men eventually lead, it is too early to tell whether the Academy will be successful. Progress is being made.

Can you imagine living in a neighborhood where regularly shootings occur, people have little money and selling drugs is the best vocational opportunity for bright, strong, ambitious teenagers? I can’t. 

Urban Prep is the only all boys high school in the Chicago public schools system.  Its freshman class was generally reading at a sixth grade level.  The staff wants their boys to expand the notions of what a black man can become to include scholar, gentleman, and leader. They established a creed for the boys to learn and live by, at least at school. One difficulty for the boys is that the creed exists in the school but not in the rest of their world. Its students are ridiculed on the way to school because of the uniform the must wear  and are called gay for attending an all boys school.  The opportunity for violence outside the school is high.

And yet, the attitudes and behaviors are beginning to change. Lets hope that this grand experiment succeeds and multiplies. 

I have included the entire creed.  These are words appropriate for all teenage boys-to-men. 

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.
We will not falter in the face of any obstacle placed before us.
We are dedicated, committed and focused.
We never succumb to mediocrity, uncertainty or fear.
We never fail because we never give up.
We make no excuses.
We choose to live honestly, nonviolently and honorably.
We respect ourselves and, in doing so, respect all people.
We have a future for which we are accountable.
We have a responsibility to our families, community and world.
We are our brothers’ keepers.
We believe in ourselves.
We believe in each other.
We believe in Urban Prep.
WE BELIEVE.

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