MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Mark Neal is comfortable walking the halls of Melrose High School and getting close to the students.
The Tipton County native said the opportunity to work with and mentor young African Americans, especially males, was the main he reason he took this job, "It was one of the biggest draws, one of the biggest pull factors."
This is Neal's first year as Melrose's principal, after a 14-year career at Millington Central High School.
He's facing some serious challenges.
The neighborhood surrounding the school is a haven for violence and students are in the bottom five percent of performing schools.
"With poverty comes drugs, gangs. There comes apathy towards school, so these are all things we're combating."
Neal has a plan to get things back on track.
He hired dozens of new teachers who support his plan and works closely with his staff to make sure they have the tools they need to help students to meet his high expectations.
Mr. Neal and the staff understand the legacy of Melrose and welcome the community's help turning the school around, "We believe in making connections with alumni, and the current students making connections with stakeholders, philanthropists, anyone who is interested in a greater Memphis."
Neal has been dubbed the quiet storm because of calm demeanor and firm leadership, but the results are clear.
He knows the road ahead is long, but he says at least now they're on the right path to return the Golden Wildcats to their former glory.