Tim King was, in his words, the “stereotypical bourgie black kid.” He attended private schools in his hometown of Chicago and went on to obtain a law degree from Georgetown University. But with his success, King also saw a problem – one he would later work to resolve.
“In education, it seems to be wrong that people of means can pay to send their children wherever they want. But if you’re poor, you get a substandard education [in Chicago public schools],” says King, 42.
So in 2002, King, who previously ran a Catholic school for African-American boys, decided to start a similar school through the Chicago Public School system. CPS officials, however, rejected his proposal twice before approving it in 2005. A year later, he opened Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men – Chicago’s first and only public charter school for African-American boys.
“Only four percent came to us reading at grade level. Now we have been able to accelerate them to the point where they’re prepared…to go off to college.”
In fact, the school’s first graduating class has already reached a 75 percent college admission rate (King is confident that will rise to 100 percent) and awarded $1.5 million in scholarships.
It’s an achievement almost unheard of in Chicago, where 60 percent of African-American boys drop out of public high school. King credits Urban Prep’s success to what he calls the four Rs – responsibility, respect, ritual, and relationships. For example, the school’s morning ritual includes having students recite “I am going to college.” But King says relationships are the most important: all of the leaders at the school are African-American men.
“We want to build positive relationships with them [so they can] see adults who care about them and look like them,” he says.
The school’s accomplishments have been so impressive that CPS approved the opening of two more Urban Preps. The second opened in 2008. The third will open this fall. King, however, hopes to build even more across Chicago and beyond… perhaps shifting his image of a bourgie black kid to that of an inspirational black man.
WATCH TIM KING DISCUSS HIS SCHOOL’S SUCCESS WITH MSNBC’S TAMRON HALL: