MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The man who says education saved him from the streets of Memphis and brought him to city hall says he wants to help kids in trouble.
Former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton is presenting the Unified School Board his proposal to open a charter school in connection with Shelby County Juvenile Court.
Herenton remembers talking with young folks who were behind bars at juvenile court. It started with one young man who started making a lot of noise. When it was over, he hugged the young man and they both smiled. That's when Willie Herenton said he was going to do something for those in juvenile hall.
It's not a nice place. For young people, it's a place where they can learn from their mistakes and straighten out, or head for a life of crime and punishment.
"I said one of these days, I'm going to have the ability to do mentoring with the juvenile court system, because I'm going to help some of these kids," Herenton said. "Then all of a sudden I'm in the charter school movement and there is no charter school that addresses the needs of that population."
This is now Herenton's passion, to help those young folks who need the most help and to give a chance to those who many have not had many chances.
"We want to give these kids a structured environment such that we can turn around negative behavior, convert them to positive behavior, and also focus on academic achievements so they are ready for college or some career."
Willie W. Herenton came from grinding poverty. A mother who fought tooth and nail to give her son a chance helped him get the education that he says in many ways saved his life.
He went from poverty to the first African American mayor of Memphis. It's something that he did and it's a chance he wants to give to children through his charter schools.
"These young people are caught up in the juvenile court system. There's a significant gap and all we want to do is close that gap with an effective program."
Not to mention a strict dress code. White shirts and ties will replace orange jail suits. Herenton said he has the perfect place for his school: the under utilized Southside High.