Harlem Prep

Step by Step ~ A Retrospective ~ 1967–1975

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A Way Out of No Way:
Harlem Prep: Transforming Dropouts into Scholars, 1967–1977

By Hussein Ahdieh &
Hillary Chapman

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Harlem Preperatory School: An Alternative by Hussein Ahdieh (Dissertation, PDF, 7.4 MB)


The students at Harlem Prep came from a variety of backgrounds in terms of ethnicity, religion, politics, etc. Most were from a poor social and economic environment. Most were drop-outs from the traditional educational system. Some were already married, some were unwed parents, some had dealt with addiction, some had had run-ins with the law.

But they all shared the characteristics of being potential college material and highly motivated to succeed. Harlem Prep was their last chance to gain admission to college and enhanced career possibilities a college degree offered.

Students were referred to Harlem Prep by street academies and similar establishments. Prospective students completed a formal application and were assessed for reading and other skills. Students then discussed concrete goals and objectives with counselors and spent time with Harlem Prep faculty, students, and administrators. Students who were considered strong candidates who could benefit from attending Harlem Prep were admitted.

Students were active in the culture and operation of Harlem Prep. There was a student council. A student served on the board of directors and attended faculty meetings. Student participated in many extra-curricular and fund-raising activities.

Almost all of Harlem Prep’s graduates went on to colleges or universities, ranging from Ivy League to community colleges. After college graduation, many returned to be effective and responsible contributors to their communities. Some of the graduates became teachers at Harlem Prep.

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