Shared sisterhood

Charter school celebrates inaugural year

For 75 girls, Wednesday marked the entrance into a sisterhood still in its infancy.

The Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, one of two public charter schools in Hamilton County, celebrated the end of its first year by dubbing each of its students "Sister Scholars."

The school's executive director, Anita Bordeaux, said the ceremony was meant to unite the girls through the common goal of education.

"I know this has been a long year with great triumphs and challenges," she told the audience, filled with parents and siblings of the students. "Life is a journey, CGLA is a journey and we still have so much to do."

The all-girl middle-high school opened its doors last summer, admitting 75 sixth- and ninth-graders. In the fall, another group of sixth- and ninth-grade students will be admitted, and the current students will move up to the school's new seventh and 10th grades.

Ms. Bordeaux said there are still "a couple spots left" for next school year, and she's expecting about 140 students total.

"I think as the school grows, we will continue to have more interest as people continue to learn more about the school," she said.

Dressed in their teal and khaki school colors, the girls used the opportunity Wednesday to express appreciation for their teachers by offering them personalized framed certificates. Excited screams erupted as each instructor's name was called, with several girls proudly proclaiming, "That's my teacher."

The girls each received a necklace to commemorate their first year at CGLA.

Maxine Bailey, executive director of the Young Women's Leadership Academy Foundation, the school's sponsor, said one of the challenges the school faced in its first year was "working together to build a culture dedicated to success."

ALSO IN CHATTANOOGASeveral participants in Chattanooga's Girls Inc. program recently received awards from the national arm of the organization for their community involvement and leadership skills.Morgan McDaniel of Boyd-Buchanan School won a $2,500 Lucille Miller Wright Scholarship, and four students won the President's Volunteer Service Award.The students winning the service award -- Briana Dobler, a junior at East Hamilton School; Alexis Eaton, an eighth-grader at Chattanooga School of Arts and Sciences; Kermisha Tate, a senior at Boyd-Buchanan; and Janelle Tonge, a junior at Brainerd High School -- also were named finalists for the organization's Strong, Smart and Bold Young Woman Award.Source: Girls Inc. of Chattanooga.

"When we opened our doors, these were 75 girls that didn't know each other, came from different neighborhoods, came from different schools and, over the year, they have created a sisterhood," said Ms. Bailey, who served as the school's co-director before Ms. Bordeaux began as executive director in April.

Fifteen-year-old Tearra Banks said it was difficult beginning her ninth-grade school year in a new environment where she didn't know anyone, but she used it as a growing experience.

"You have to find yourself before you can find any other person to be friends with," she said. "Coming into this school, I had to find out who I was before I could accept who others were, and that was a difficult process."

Ivy Academy, an environmentally themed high school, is the county's other public charter school. It also opened this school year.

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