Inaugural Chattanooga Prep school class greeted by hundreds
In April of 2017, the Hamilton County school board approved an all-boys public charter school in Chattanooga.
On Thursday, it opened its doors to 67 sixth-graders who said they are excited to be a part of history.
"I was just kind of nervous and just kind of surprised," said Hemric Juarez Mendoza, a new student and the class president.
"With how many parents and people came to for us just for our first day."
Over 300 men welcomed Hemric and his school mates as members of the inaugural class of Chattanooga Preparatory School, which is the first all-boys public charter school in the city.
"We really do believe that this school is going to radically change a lot of lives in Chattanooga," said co-founder Ted Alling.
Ted and and his wife, Kelly Alling, are fulfilling a three-year vision to provide quality education to disadvantaged young men.
"We're just tiny little seeds in all of this, said Kelly, who is also a co-founder.
"They're going to be the ones to make the true change."
The support was more than expected. Hundreds of men cheered the boys on as they made their ways to class.
The men will serve as mentors all the way until the boys go to college.
"I had to live through some of the same struggles these guys had to," said Chattanooga native Brandon Woodruff.
"When I was going through it, it wasn't anything like this. I want to be a part of it so these guys can know that they have people here."
"It takes nothing for us to give a little bit of our time to come and support them," said Chattanooga resident Chris Mayes, who was also on hand for he first day.
"I got to see my mentee today," said Erik Gray, who is committing to be a mentor for the next seven years.
"I got a picture, big smiles and all of that. It's just a really special day even in this little bit of drizzle."
Akeem Birt is one of the 67 students and has one goal in mind.
"It's a lot," Birt said.
"I just want to leave a legacy for them. A good one."
The boys are taking their classes in the Hope House for the next several weeks while workers put the finishing touches on the Chattanooga Prep building.
Students are expected to be in the new school building by the end of September.
The co-founders said their seven-year goal is for 350 boys from sixth through 12th grade to attend the school.