Every HS Senior At LEAD Academy Accepted To College
by Aundrea Cline-Thomas
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Nashville's only charter high school is celebrating a huge milestone. In just a few months LEAD Academy will graduate its first high school class. All 44 of their graduating seniors have been accepted to a 4-year college.
"When I first came here in 8th grade I was kind of like college, I don't need to know about college right now," senior Jiah Toms said.
At LEAD Academy the writing is on the wall. College banners decorate the hallways and classrooms. The chance to get each student into a 4-year college is not just a lofty goal; it's why LEAD Academy started in the first place. Some thought it was an unlikely or even impossible guarantee.
"We put in an extra hour that other high schools didn't do," Senior Temiloluwa Thomas said. "We had more homework than other high schoolers had."
In 2007 when LEAD first opened its middle school parents bought into the college guarantee. They willingly took a chance on the charter school that was then still a very new concept.
"I remember freshman year a lot of us were just like, you know I don't think I can go to college. I don't think I can just be accepted to a four year college," Thomas remembers.
The bar had already been set despite the challenges. Eighty-four percent of students are the first person in their families to go to college. Seventy-eight percent qualify for free and reduced lunch.
"I got the Presidential Scholarship from Fisk (University) which is (worth) $124,000," senior Tyree Williams said, "and I got the Presidential (scholarship) from TSU which is (worth) $126,000."
So far the class has received more than $1 million in scholarship and grant offers. Now students are literally cashing in on a higher education and a promise that they've worked so hard for.
"We did it," Thomas said emphatically. "It's so amazing to think about. We really put in work and we really accomplished what we wanted to."
Only 13 students in the graduating class have been at LEAD since it first opened in 2007. Once the students graduate, LEAD will continue to check-in with them throughout their college career.