Nationally known educator, author speaking at Chattanooga youth conference


What: Youth Blast two-day youth conferenceWhen: Block Party kickoff at 6 to 9 p.m. FridayDr. Steve Perry speaks to the general public at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Roland Hayes Concert Hall at 752 Vine St.Where: All conference sessions for youth will be at the UTC University Center at 615 McCallie Ave.To register for the public session go to

The founder of a school that U.S. News and World Report deemed one of the best in the nation is a black man who came from multiple generations of poverty and was born to a teenage mother on her 16th birthday.

Steve Perry, founder and former principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Conn., will be the main speaker for Youth Blast, a two-day free event aimed at encouraging young people to overcome obstacles and reach their potential. The conference also advises parents on how to help youth.

"In each one of our young people, there is something powerful," Perry said in a telephone interview from his school this week. "The issue is: How can we as adults support them?"

Perry resigned from the magnet school in 2015 and became head of school at Capital Preparatory School in Bridgeport, Conn., that same year. He started Capital Preparatory School in Harlem, N.Y., this year.

Perry drew national recognition after launching Capital Preparatory Magnet School and sending 100 percent of his graduating seniors to four-year colleges every year since the first class graduated in 2006. His success came despite having a school in one of the lowest-performing districts in the state, according to news reports.

Before Perry's resignation, Hartford Board of Education Chairman Matt Poland in November 2013 called for an investigation of comments Perry made about his views on teacher unions and those who disagreed with him on Twitter.

His opponents on Twitter have called him "racist" and rude. They also accused him of being harsh toward students and teachers.

Perry said he admonished adults to exercise "tough love," have high expectations for young people and to hold youth accountable for their actions. Even a 3-year-old child has a sense of right and wrong, he said.

"The whole game doesn't depend on the child, but parents are just the coaches," Perry said. "It's the child who has to score."

Then he demonstrated his idea of tough love by chastising two boys who were sent to his office while he talked on the phone.

"Their mother didn't send them to school to act out, and they know that," Perry said.

He is an education contributor for CNN and MSNBC and an Essence magazine columnist.

Perry wrote two books including "PUSH Has Come to Shove: Getting Our Kids The Education They Deserve Even If It Means Picking A Fight" and "Man Up."

Chris Ramsey, president of the Southeast Tennessee Health Consortium, said he is among of a host of volunteers pulling together to bring Perry to Chattanooga.

"This is our passion and our ministry, to go back in our communities and help the next generation," said Ramsey, who grew up as one of five siblings in a single-parent home in the defunct Boone-Hysinger public housing site.

Youth Blast will offer sessions teaching youth how to interact with law enforcement and discuss the dos and don'ts of interacting on social media. Some employers check social media to determine if you are a good fit for their company, Ramsey said. The conference also will include discussion of preparing for the ACT and SAT tests and bullying. There are sessions advising parents on how to help their children, and Perry will meet with educators.

All young people and their parents are encouraged.

"The type of stuff that corporate America does for [its] employees, we want our youth to be exposed to the same quality of information that everybody else is exposed to," Ramsey said. "We want to equip our youth and empower them to be successful."

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at [email protected] or 423-757-6431.