Willie Herenton Hopes To Expand His Juvenile Court Charter School To Nashville

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(Memphis) Former Mayor Willie Herenton says one of his personal goals in life is to help troubled children in juvenile court custody get on the right track through education.

"Yes, this is personal. If we don't intervene and get kids on the right track academically and character development, we will continue to contribute to the prison population," Herenton said.

The former city schools superintendent says he escaped Memphis' mean streets growing up, but he realizes many children don't.

"I believe we got to raise them up and bring them out."

It's one reason Dr. Herenton and his W.E.B. DuBois Consortium plan to open the Thurgood Marshall Charter School for children in Memphis-Shelby County Juvenile Court custody this fall, and said several Nashville leaders have approached him to open a similar one there.

"What we want to do with an innovative charter school is to innovate and go into these juvenile justice systems to give those kids options and alternatives."

His motivation also comes from a young man he recently met in juvenile court custody in Memphis.

"I literally went into a cell and embraced a young kid who was tough when I went in there, but before I left we were hugging each other and I got a little emotional and I said I will have to come back."

The charter school will also be partnering with former NFL legend Jim Brown.

"Jim Brown has a phenomenal program. They deal with gang intervention, and character development. They are going to engage in discussions with us."

It's a discussion that could lead to change for troubled children.

"In this last stage of my life it's all devoted to education and this is a unique population that I care about."

Dr. Herenton says his juvenile court charter school plans have the endorsement of Juvenile Court Judge Curtis Persons and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell.