From the time they enter Chicago’s Urban Prep Academies, the young men are asked to wear red ties. They may change these ties only once: after they have been admitted into college. During this year’s graduation ceremony, students who had achieved the honor were given new yellow ties with red stripes, a gesture to symbolize the hard work and dedication displayed in not only graduating from high school but also continuing to pursue education in one of the nation’s toughest cities.
For the fifth year in a row, all of the graduating students at Urban Prep Academies’ three campuses (pdf)—240, to be exact—donned new ties as the graduating class has again achieved a 100 percent acceptance rate into four-year colleges and universities.
“The tie represents, to me, moving on from a boy to becoming a young man and actually doing something with my life,” graduating senior Dumar Harris told NBC Chicago.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke at the graduation Tuesday, and NBA star and Chicago native Dwyane Wade donated $10,000 through his foundation to help pay for the prom, NBC Chicago reports.
“I got into a lot of different schools, but right now I’m thinking about four different choices,” student Keshawn Cathery told NBC Chicago.
“I got into Georgetown University, which I will be attending in the fall,” student Derrick Little said.
The 2010 class, the first to graduate from the Chicago school, is on course to graduate from college.
“Being the first graduating class, you see a lot of progression, you see a lot of downfall, but everything comes just together. If you keep striving for that one goal, no one can tell you no,” Urban Prep alumnus Paris Williams told the news station.
With its challenging curriculum, the public charter school has had some students leave the program because they weren’t able to manage it. “Urban Prep is not for everyone, and those students may leave us,” school founder and CEO Tim King told the news station. “But the fact that some students choose to leave us should not be used as a weapon against the students who have chosen to stay and have achieved this incredible accomplishment.”