Saturday, August 4, 2018

Stories that never got written, #1: Urban Prep College Signing Day

     Not every story gets written. Good ideas fall by the wayside for a variety of reasons. 
     I was trucking up Clark Street from the Madison Street bus to meet a friend for lunch in the middle of May when I came upon this scene. Students lining up to declare their names and what colleges they were going to attend in the fall while ceremoniously donning a baseball cap from that school. It seemed proud, joyous, inspirational, and the sort of story Chicagoans don't read about enough.  As it happened, the evening before I had taken a plane from Los Angeles to Chicago along with a bunch of very tall athletes coming here for the NBA draft look-see. Chicagoans were laying in wait at baggage claim for these young men to get their autographs, just in case. The Urban Prep event seemed a real world counterbalance to that, the giving of overdue recognition to champions in their own right.
     I took some photos, shot some video, and interviewed a few people—the two energetic ladies below, relatives who had come to cheer their nephew. "It's been such an incredible journey," said one, telling of a young man who lost his father and overcame hardships. I didn't have a notebook, so I wrote on a folded copy of the newspaper I had brought to read on the bus.
      The Urban Prep administrator I pulled aside was busy running the program and said he wasn't the right one to talk about it anyway, giving me a name and phone number, and I proceeded to my lunch. That afternoon, back at the office, I phoned him, left a message, saying who I am and why I was calling. He never called back.
     No crime there. Maybe he was busy. Maybe he knew my work, or thought he knew it, and didn't like me. Maybe Urban Prep doesn't want publicity, although that's unlikely: they held the program in Daley Plaza, they must want people to know about it. Maybe he never got the message. Maybe something else.  
     And I didn't persist: just the one phone call—my fault; I suppose my thinking was, "I'm not going to beg you"—and then moved on to other things. The scribbled-over newspaper has been sitting on my desk for 10 weeks. Time to throw it away. Maybe next year, I'll try to contact Urban Prep in early May, get a jump on this. Maybe not. It's a big, busy world, and stuff gets missed. Still, you feel a little bad about the stories that got away. 



  1. don't miss a chance to write something positive about generally maligned under represented groups. its worth the effort and doesn't happen often enough.

  2. Glad to have read this inspiring and feel-good story; hoping this may bring a wider audience to the ceremony next May.

  3. If you believe that college athletics has been co-opted by professionals, seeing a ceremony acknowledging students is overdue. Money may not be the root of all evil, but it pushes it's way into too much of our lives. I hope Marshall and his fellow graduates succeed in their future studies. Thanks for not discarding that newspaper, Neil.


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