Founder of Urban Prep Academies of Chicago
The Community Action Organization of Erie County Inc. will present its 2012 Parent Engagement Conference on Saturday, Oct. 20, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Burgard Vocational High School, 400 Kensington Ave., Buffalo.
The goal of this educational conference is to empower parents with the knowledge and resources to advocate for their children. This year's conference theme is "Education is Liberation" and hundreds of individuals interested in academic success, including but not limited to, educators at all levels, health and human service representatives, criminal justice professionals and business, government and community leaders are expected to be in attendance.
Burgard High School, one of the city's six persistently lowest-achieving high schools, was selected as the backdrop for the event. Only 32 percent of the Burgard Class of 2011 graduated in four years, down from a 49 percent graduation rate the year before. Overall, Buffalo Public School's four-year graduation rate is 54 percent.
To accomplish the CAO's mission, the conference will offer 10 workshop presentations and two panel discussions led by local and regionally recognized presenters. Participants will gain knowledge of proactive solutions and best practices for meeting the serious challenges faced by many students today, including poverty, learning difficulties, school violence, underachievement, achievement gaps, illiteracy, dropout prevention, bullying and gangs.
Due to a prior commitment, Buffalo Public School Superintendent Dr. Pamela C. Brown will be unable to attend. However, representatives from the district are confirmed as presenters for the conference. The event also will feature a "Family Resource Fair" showcasing a variety of educational advocacy groups, social service organizations and youth-focused initiatives that offer programs, services and resources available to parents and families.
The keynote speaker (at noon) will be Tim King, founder and CEO of Urban Prep Academies, a nonprofit organization operating a network of public college-prep boys' schools in Chicago (including the nation's first all-male charter high school), and related programs aimed at promoting college success. One hundred percent of Urban Prep graduates - all African-American males and mostly from low-income families - have been admitted to four-year colleges/universities.
King also serves as an adjunct lecturer at Northwestern University and has contributed to the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun Times, and the Huffington Post. He was named ABC World News "Person of the Week," Chicago Magazine's "Chicagoan of the Year," People Magazine's "Hero of the Year" and to Ebony Magazine's "Power 100" list. Additionally, King was featured on "Good Morning America," "The Oprah Winfrey Show," and The Moth/USA Networks' "Characters Unite" series. Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton recognized him for his work with youth.
King has completed postgraduate work in Kenya and Italy; holds the Doctorate Honoris Causa from the Adler School; and has received Bachelor of Science in foreign service and Juris Doctor degrees from Georgetown University. In 1996, he became the guardian of a student orphaned when his mother died. That student was once homeless and now has graduated from college. Having a positive impact on this young man's life is the achievement of which King is the proudest.
Based on an interview with Chicago Magazine, before King launched Urban Prep Academies, 60 percent of Chicago's young black males were dropping out of school and fewer than 3 percent were completing college. King said he believed that an intense academic regimen, paired with the cultivation of social skills and an injection of self-confidence, could point those same young men toward lifelong success.
"We could change generations," King said. "We could change not only these young men's lives, but the lives of their descendants - the life of this country."
Twice, the Chicago Board of Education rejected King's idea for an all-male high school. But in 2005, with his third application, he got the go-ahead. At Urban Prep, King's persistence remains a touchstone.
"Mr. King never gave up on his idea, so we don't give up on ours," says Robert Lee Henderson III, a member of the inaugural freshman class. Ninety percent of those freshmen came from low-income families, about 85 percent from single-mother households, and nearly all of them read below their grade level.
Despite those troubling statistics, the school's motto - "We Believe" - prevailed, and it wasn't just because of the tough curriculum. Each student was addressed as "Mister" (followed by his surname), and every day started with a morning assembly that was part homeroom, part motivational rally. The young men wore blazers and ties, though in the early days, King recalls, some students would walk to school in street clothes and then surreptitiously change into the uniform once they arrived.
Now that Urban Prep has a stellar reputation, "They wear their blazer and tie everywhere. They want you to notice they're Urban Prep men," King said.
The goal of the Parent Engagement Conference is that participants gain effective educational tools to build strong caring schools, communities and families, which can meet the diverse needs of all students and set them on a path toward academic excellence.
Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for youth, and includes a boxed lunch. Pre-registration is encouraged. Admission tickets can be purchased in person at the CAO headquarters located at 70 Harvard Place, or online by credit or debit card at www.caoec.org. For additional information about the conference, purchasing an exhibitor booth, or to sponsor tickets for low-income residents to attend, contact Special Events Director Yvonne M. Hairston at 716-881-5150, ext. 4402, or by email at [email protected].
The CAO 2012 Parent Engagement Conference is supported in part by CAO of Erie County Inc.; CAO board of directors; CAO Head Start; City of Buffalo Masten District Office: Councilperson Demone A. Smith; Masten Block Club Coalition; KeyBank; Native American Community Services; King Charter School; Canisius College; Little Spanish Daycare; Metro Buffalo Alliance of Black School Educators; Youth Entrepreneur Showcase; and the United Men's Black Think Tank.