In an effort to boost student achievement above and beyond national norms, we have designed a culturally relevant curriculum that centralizes, rather than marginalizes, the complex experience of the urban young man. The Urban Prep Arcs, our comprehensive, innovative curriculum is designed to embrace the unique experiences of urban young men and mold them into the types of well-rounded students that colleges covet. The four Arcs: Academic, Service, Professional/College and Activity, engage students in and outside of the classroom. It is well-known that acceptance to and success in college is not only based upon a student's grades and test scores, but their involvement in extracurricular activities, engagement in their communities, and their comfort within a professional environment. Teachers work within the framework of the Arcs to craft culturally relevant lesson plans that promote student engagement, interaction and enthusiasm.
The Academic Arc features a rigorous course of study that prepares students to meet and exceed state requirements, and compete in college classrooms. The Academic Arc is aligned with both the Illinois State Learning Standards and the ACT College Readiness Standards. During four years at Urban Prep, our students take double periods of English and Math, twice the amount as students in traditional Chicago public high schools.
The Service Arc mandates that all students contribute to the design and implementation of a community service project during each year of high school. Students are asked to identify an aspect of their community that they can help improve, formulate a plan for making this improvement, and work with classmates to execute the service project. The Service Arc fosters levels of compassion, leadership, and character that will stay with our young men as they mature into successful, civic-minded community leaders.
Urban Prep’s College/Professional Arc is an example of our commitment to providing students with a well-rounded educational experience. Each summer we send students to enrichment programs hosted by colleges and universities across the nation, and world. These “summer college” programs are designed to give high school students first-hand experience in college classrooms, strengthening their understanding of what it will take to obtain a four-year degree. Our students have studied at some of the world’s most prestigious universities including Cornell University, Georgetown University, The University of Chicago and England’s Cambridge College.
The Professional/College Arc also enables Urban Prep students to engage in internships with partnering businesses and corporations. If we expect our students to succeed academically and professionally, it is imperative that we provide them with a well-rounded educational experience; the College/Professional Arc helps us to accomplish this goal.
While academic rigor is the center piece of our curriculum, we recognize that extracurricular involvement is also vital to young men’s maturation; thus, we have built the Activity Arc into the Urban Prep curriculum. The Activity Arc requires that each student participate in one school sponsored extracurricular activity per year. Programs sponsored by the Activity Arc include athletics, student government, academic clubs, entrepreneurship courses and myriad other activities. Involvement in extracurricular activities fosters a sense of camaraderie which permeates the Urban Prep community.
In total, these four connecting Arcs encircle the student, providing a complete and comprehensive high school education; an education that will leave our young men well prepared to meet the grueling demands of life on a college campus.