Joseph J. Mason II | Submitted photo

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Joseph J. Mason II was recently given the opportunity to head Urban Prep Academy (Englewood Campus) as Principal at 27!

Joseph grew up in Forest Park, IL. In 8th grade he scored in the 99 percentile in math, was in the gifted program at Northwestern all while being on the baseball All-star team and AAU-basketball team.

Joseph entered HS at Providence St. Mel where he played basketball his freshman year the “Love of his Life”. I took a position out of state and he moved in with his dad his sophomore year in HS. His dad Joseph Sr. was in grad school at the University of Chicago so he transferred the young Joseph to Kenwood Academy where he was the star basketball player (point guard). 

Not only could Joseph play ball he was also smart! In High School, he started receiving academic scholarships to Perdue, Marquette and even West Point came to interview him; but Joseph wanted to play basketball. He eventually settled for Union College in Schenectady, NY (Ivy League) where he could play ball and it was academically challenging. He soon became the star athlete playing point guard. He also pledged Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. We had high hopes for Joseph to play in the NBA but unfortunately he had several injuries.

In Joseph’s junior/senior year in College he thought about applying for Law School – He then heard about a program called Teach for America, I told him that program was AWESOME and would afford  him the opportunity to figure out life’s next steps. He said the only problem with Teach for America – 50,000 students applied and they only chose 5000 into the program. I told him to keep the faith!

Joseph had 4 interviews with Teach for America and he was accepted into the program in 2013; soon after he began working at Urban Prep in Englewood, teaching special education while going to pursue his M.A.T. degree in teaching at National Louis University. He began to mentor the youth and also began to coach the freshman and sophomore basketball teams.  

Joseph works hard to instill drive, determination and to motivate his students and athletes. Joseph knows that having the right mentors can make a difference, as evidence by his willingness to inspire others to action.

Joseph graduated with his M.A.T degree in 2015 from National Louis University (Chicago) and with his 2nd masters of Education (Awarded October 2017) from Columbia University Teachers College in New York; all while working as special education department chair, teaching, coaching and mentoring.

After earning his 2nd Master’s degree; Joseph took a position at KIPP Houston TX as Assistant Principal. After working as an Assistant Principal in Houston, Urban Prep contacted Joseph (his previous employer) where he worked as a Special Education Teacher to interview for the role as Principal Urban Prep (Englewood Campus) Joseph showed his leadership prowess and landed the role!

 Joseph would like to continue his role in educational leadership and striving higher by enrolling in a PHD or an Ed.D – giving back to our youth.

Because Joseph coaches and teaches young men in the community, at the beginning of his journey we were often fearful but I know he is protected and God got his back!  He truly cares about our young black youth.

At 27 years old, Joseph is a Rock Star to his family – An exceptional young man. He is a great son, brother, uncle, student, teacher, leader, mentor, friend and a soon to be Father.  Joseph is a man of color who is breaking the cycle of adversity rather than being broken by it – Always striving for opportunities to give and receive a hand up.

Denise Borders-Mason

Mother and Forest Park resident

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