It’s time to Break It Down!
Spring is in the air. Every year about this time I seem to run across stories about black academic excellence across the American educational landscape. Perhaps the most extraordinary example involves Chicago’s Urban Prep Academies, a collection of all male charter schools located and operating in Chicago. In 2002, former Hales Franciscan High School President (and Alpha man) Tim King organized a group of African-American civic, business, and education leaders, expressly for the purpose of creating a new high school in Chicago focused on providing a strong, college-preparatory high school option for boys in under-served African-American communities.
The Chicago Board of Education approved Urban Prep Academies’ charter application in 2005, and Urban Prep opened its first school, Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men — Englewood Campus in September 2006. Urban Prep became the first charter high school for boys in the country. The school opened its second facility in the East Garfield Park community in 2009, and moved closer to the West Side in 2011. Urban Prep’s third campus, serving the historic Bronzeville community, opened in 2010. Approximately 85% of Urban Prep students are low-income, and nearly all are African American.
Admission to Urban Prep is non-selective and determined through a lottery system. Enrollment is open to all matriculating 9th graders in Chicago. Lottery admission information is available on Urban Prep’s admission webpage.
The school became the focus of national attention in March 2010, when it was announced that 100% of the first graduating class had been accepted at a four-year college or university. Incredibly, Urban Prep students have continued that streak every year. I’m confident even Joe Biden would consider that a big…deal.
In other years, there have been (African American) students who have earned acceptance at every Ivy League University, which is without question, a phenomenal accomplishment. This year’ superlative is a 17-year old young man from Houston, Texas, Michael Brown. I had read about Brown, and thought of him again as I was changing flights a couple of days ago in Houston.
Michael became a celebrity of sorts earlier this month when news broke that he had applied to, and gained acceptance by 20 colleges, including four Ivy League schools. Brown did not just gain acceptance by all the schools to which he had applied, he earned a full ride to each, and a total of more than 260,000 in scholarship money.
When interviewed by his hometown paper, the Houston Chronicle, he said, “It’s surprising I was accepted at all of them.” According to the paper, Mr. Brown, a resident of the city’s economically challenged Third Ward, has compiled quite an impressive academic portfolio, replete with an array of extra-curricular and volunteer activities, and a quite substantive 4.68 G.P.A. Michael noted that he derived most of his motivation from his mother, Berthinia Rutledge-Brown, who completed her own degree while he was in elementary school. Her drive and commitment helped him understand what going to college might look like, allowed him to recognize the correlation between tenacity and achieving an education, and to appreciate the connection between achieving an education and subsequently succeeding in obtaining employment opportunities. He doubts she was cognizant that he was actively taking in all that information…but that is exactly what he was doing.
As one might imagine, the sifting that winnows down 20 schools to a final selection is quite a process. He has yet to make a final decision. Several days ago, he narrowed the list to a final seven:
Also among the 20 were Amherst, Vanderbilt, Johns Hopkins, and the home state University of Texas. Recently, he reduced the list to the Final Four, Yale, Georgetown, Stanford, and Harvard. Brown noted that he began getting serious about college toward the end of ninth grade. His current assessment is that his decision, ultimately, will likely come down to Harvard and Stanford. He has plans to visit both soon.
But lest I leave you with the impression that all is sweetness and light, perish the thought. A pair of newswomen from the local Washington, DC Fox 5 affiliate, co-anchor Holly Morris, and contributor, Sarah Fraser, opted to weigh in on Brown’s freaking awesome accomplishment. And all in they went, panning him for his audacity in thinking he could apply to 20 colleges. They went so far as to call his decision “obnoxious,” and suggested he was showing off by doing so.
After hearing about the pushback from the DC Fox commentators, Brown called the station, spoke with a producer, and then had a 10-minute interview. However, he declined to provide his permission to air the interview, unless the anchor issued an apology, which, in classic Donald Trump fashion, she has refused to do.
Brown had indicated he plans to major in political science and economics. Former President Bill Clinton has weighed in, tweeting an offer to answer any questions Brown might have about Georgetown, (Clinton’s alma mater).
What an incredible accomplishment, Michael. Follow your heart and your head; your future is incredibly bright. I can’t wait to see what comes next. In the interim, if you want to talk about Georgetown give me a call.
Upon being asked about his personal view of his achievement, in a moment of intra-personal reflection, Brown said:
“I just felt very accomplished because I was very intentional with every school I applied to, so it was good that all of that paid off and my application strategy worked.”
At the end of the day, it was a great achievement by a special young man. It was an outstanding accomplishment by him, and undoubtedly a memorable moment for his mother, and a time for his teachers, counselors, and academic support team to beam with pride. The young man wears glasses, so I’m not sure about his eyesight, but his academic prescription is…”20/20: Perfect!”
I’m done; holla back!
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