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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Urban Ellis: Battling to give kids the chances he never had

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A Press profile

By Maria Clark
mclark@riverdalepress.com

Two years ago, Urban Ellis trekked up the steep hill from Broadway to Manhattan College on a mission: to start up a college prep program for kids in Marble Hill.

Despite his age — he was 76 at the time — and a bad hip, Mr. Ellis was determined to enlist help from the college for his program.

“The dean walked him upstairs to my office that day. His ambition for the betterment of the kids in the Bronx really has energized me,” said Corine Fitzpatrick, who helped Mr. Ellis successfully apply for a $400,000 Optimal College Readiness grant.

The money helped Mr. Ellis set up two centers, one at St. Stephen’s Methodist Church and another on the ground floor of his building at the Marble Hill Houses. The walls in the small center have a fresh coat of paint, the Internet has been hooked up and Mr. Ellis is expecting approximately 25 students to join the program as soon as this weekend.

“Because of my life circumstances, I didn’t have the education I needed to be as successful as some of the people I met along the way,” said Mr. Ellis. “I wanted to find a way the kids here could at least have an option to do something great with their lives.”

Ms. Fitzpatrick recruited graduate students at Manhattan College to help students learn how to write resumes, organize their college applications and apply for scholarship and grant money.

They are currently doing outreach at IN-Tech Academy, MS/HS 368, where Manhattan College has been developing a college advisory program, along with the Bronx Engineering and Technology Academy on the John F. Kennedy Campus and St. Raymond’s Academy.

“He is so energetic and enthusiastic. He wanted to stand outside of the center in his building and hand out flyers to students when they walk home from school,” said Ms. Fitzpatrick who runs a graduate program in mental health counseling at Manhattan College and also helps writes grants.

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