“I really didn’t feel like going to an all-male high school. I thought that was pretty horrible,” Israel Wilson, a freshman computer science major at Morehouse College said.
Despite Wilson’s aversion to male institutions, he was destined for eight years of a male, minority education. Forced by his father to attend Urban Prep Academy and persuaded by his teacher to attend Morehouse, five years into his fate, he is thankful for their vision.
Wilson is a member of the inaugural class of the nation’s first male charter public high school, Urban Prep Academy. Founder Tim King’s vision permeated Chicago and the nation last year when the school met its goal of graduating and sending 100 percent of its students to college. “I think Urban Prep really did prepare me for college and Morehouse,” Wilson confirmed. “For the most part, a lot of the information that I have as a freshman is something that I already went over during my high school experience.”
Urban Prep has not hesitated to take innovative educational approaches to produce results. Recently, they created a Fellows program to be implemented at each of the three Urban Prep campuses, in Englewood, East Garfield, and South Shore.
Urban Prep students are grouped into Prides. A Pride is similar to a high school homeroom, but it is also a class. The Fellows Program was created to improve the Prides. Six fellows are chosen to serve as Pride leaders. These fellows teach a humanities-based class during one period in addition to tutoring and mentoring Pride students and interacting with Pride parents. The circular connection between Pride leader, student, teachers and parents fosters Urban Prep’s community culture.
The six fellows are, Jeffery Bakkensen of Georgetown University, Andre Bobb of DePaul University, Jeremy Harp of Yale University, Sian Kieran of Brown University, Neel Lalchandani of the University of Pennsylvania and Ashlei Williams of Spelman College. These individuals were trained and equipped to pilot the program. “We take a variety of factors into account when making hiring decisions.” Jake Wertz, manager of Urban Prep confirmed. “The applicants’ past record of academic success and work experience, their ability to work well as both a leader and a teammate and, of course, their ability to relate to our students.”
Looking toward expansion, Wertz and the school administration are developing new recruiting methods, specifically for HBCUs. Wertz asserted, “HBCUs are a natural recruiting target for us because it is so important for us to find educators who can reflect and relate to our students’ own identities.”
Samuel Adams, a 1996 Morehouse alumnus and an English teacher at Urban Prep, hopes that post-graduate programs will seek HBCU graduates. “I spoke to some individuals in TFA [Teach for America] and that’s one of the things that I really wish would happen. That Morehouse, Spelman, Clark, and more HBCUs would have students in TFA and would have participants seek employment at the Urban Prep Academies.” Urban Prep aims to recruit at institutions like Morehouse College and Spelman College because of the environments and structures. “Morehouse is known around the country as an all-male African-American academic institution whose community has a strong history and commitment to success, so the connection for us is obvious,” Wertz noted.
Adams supports Urban Prep and Morehouse interaction for more than the obvious connections. “I think that the high school and college level are two different experiences. They have multiple opportunities to interact with various individuals of high moral, intellectual and social character. That’s a great difference!”
Wilson added, “Even though it is an all-male institution, it is nothing like Urban Prep. Because it’s more co-ed than people think.”
Wilson has every intention of using the education he is receiving at Morehouse to give back to Urban Prep. “I wish that Urban Prep offered a computer science class or something of the sort. So one thing I want to do after I graduate is come back and start some type of program and at least speak to them and let them know about the field.”
Urban Prep acts as a catalyst for future Morehouse net- working and alumni relations. Wertz said, “We are delighted to have sent five young men from our first graduating class to Morehouse for college, and are optimistic that we will continue to send many students there for years to come. Similarly, the Fellows Program is eager to recruit Morehouse grads to work with our students.”
About the Author: Ashlei Williams Contributing/Featured Writer Spelman College ’10 firstname.lastname@example.org
The purpose of His Story is to tell the stories of Black Men young and old through videos and written work. Too often the story of Black Men is told by everyone else. His Story will be the catalyst to allow Black Men & Women to provide the positive contradiction to the prevailing Black male image of today.