Boyd is using his analytical toolkit and decision making skills to create better educational opportunities for underserved young adults at Urban Prep.
Troy Boyd
Troy Boyd

Serendipity struck Troy Boyd during his junior year of college and changed his life trajectory.

As a journalism student at Northwestern University, Boyd was on the path to becoming a reporter when he took an education-reform course taught by nonprofit leader Tim King. The course doubled as an internship, and Boyd soon found himself drawn to King’s new project, the Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men.

The nation’s first all-boys charter high school, which opened its doors months before Boyd’s internship, Urban Prep was established to serve young men from some of Chicago’s most disadvantaged and underserved communities. Boyd vividly remembers meeting some of the students for the first time.

“In junior high and high school, I had a passion for working with younger kids. When I got to meet these guys at Urban Prep, I saw my younger self in them,” he says. “That day, looking in the eyes of those young men, I wanted the opportunity to be that mentor for as many of those boys as possible.”

Boyd, who rose from intern to senior director of institutional advancement at Urban Prep, is in the inaugural cohort of the Harris School of Public Policy’s Evening Master’s Program. He says he is pursuing the public policy degree because he wants to make sure that he—and the programs he oversees for Urban Prep—are as enriched, well-rounded, and effective as possible.

“I am using everything I’m learning in the Evening Master’s Program, from leadership to negotiation strategy to game theory to decision making,” says Boyd, adding that Harris’ program has already helped him determine the causation and correlation of issues. Boyd especially credits Harris faculty Anthony Fowler and Jeff Grogger for providing in-class activities and assignments that challenge him and help him grow.

“I’ve sharpened my data and analytical skills, and I’m able to push past the surface level to think critically about all the outcomes of the decisions I have to make.”

While he admits that his understanding of the scope of public policy impact was limited before enrolling in the Evening Master’s Program, Boyd’s perception of what policy could effect was quickly altered. He began to realize how he could apply what he was learning in the program to his work at Urban Prep.

“I thought public policy was all about politics, but it’s so much more. It’s the people and mechanisms behind decisions,” Boyd says. He explains that deep analysis is required to create effective programs for young people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. “As part of an organization that helps operate a charter, it’s important that I’m skilled, knowledgeable, and working with the right folks to make the right decisions.”

Boyd says he’s proud of what Urban Prep has accomplished during his time with the organization. For nine consecutive years, 100 percent of Urban Prep graduates have been accepted to four-year colleges. The network also boasts college enrollment and persistence rates that outpace the district and national averages for black males.

As he navigates education policy, Boyd is working to facilitate Urban Prep’s expansion to its first out-of-state location. The fourth Urban Prep school is scheduled to open in Las Vegas, Nevada, in fall 2019.