CHICAGO — It was College Signing Day Friday for 163 seniors from Urban Prep Academy for Young Men High School.
The fourth annual event took place outside the Richard J. Daley Center, 50 W. Washington St., where one by one each senior from the school's Englewood and North Lawndale campuses walked up to the microphone and announced their college choice.
And after making their announcement each senior was given a hat matching the college of their choice.
"Hello, my name is Tarron Lones and I will be attending Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville," said the 18-year-old senior.
Lones' mother, Alissia Delaney, said watching her son mature from a boy into a young man the past four years was a rewarding experience.
"It let me know that I did right by him and shaped his manhood even though I am a single parent," she said.
For Lones, who has not yet decided what career he plans to study in college, he said the one thing Urban Prep taught him was how to become a man.
"A 'real man' can admit when he is wrong and can accept responsibility for his actions. A real man provides for his family, emotionally and financially, and helps raise and support his children," explained Lone.
Not all seniors are planning to leave Chicago for college. Some students, like Dominique Wallace, plan to stay in the city.
"I decided to attend Chicago State University because it is a good school. I have cousins who went there and from what I researched it is an excellent school for blacks," Wallace, 18, said.
Urban Prep's seniors will spread out across they country, attending schools such as Stanford and Yale, Morehouse College and Tennessee's Fisk University.
Urban Prep Founder Tim King said from Day One of entering the school as freshmen students are prepared for college.
"We have an excellent group of teachers and counselors that makes all the difference in the world," King said. "What we instill in our students is that education is the one thing no one can ever take away from you. We want them to know that if they decide not to go to college after high school, while ill advised, that they had other choices available."
Gerald Jackson, 21, is a 2010 graduate of Urban Prep and now attends Howard University in Washington, D.C., studying information technology.
"I am set to graduate May 2014, and while a lot of my friends [from other schools] fell short of getting their diploma, I am still in school and doing well," Jackson said. "I credit my success to what I learned at Urban Prep."