Seventh-grader Mason Russell walked up to the podium, grabbed the microphone and, calmly before nearly 75 people inside the LEAD Southeast cafeteria, explained who he is as a LEAD student and what the school means to him and his friends.

“At LEAD Southeast, I have so much courage now that I believe I can do anything,” he said.

His classmate, Juliana Shoun, spoke next, calling her school “wonderful.”

“I will always be supportive of the school’s goals,” she said. “I believe in LEAD Southeast because of its great Ethos. For example, as a student, I know that the Ethos we follow are disciplined, serve others, committed, courageous, and self-reliant. Students at LEAD Southeast are encouraged to follow these Ethos because they are traits we will need in order to be a good leader and get into college.”

Mason and Juliana were the youngest of the speaking lineup Tuesday morning as LEAD Public Schools officially unveiled the newly-renovated Metroplex campus, home to nearly 400 students in grades 5-7, and celebrated the Reward School status earned by students and staff last year.

“The work for this school began in earnest on June of 2013,” School Director Chris Elliott said in his opening remarks. “It was hot. We knocked on hundreds of doors. There was a lot of sweat, quite a few bug bites and there were many, many conversations with families about what they wanted for their children’s education in Southeast Nashville. It turns out, we wanted the same things: a safe school. Trusting, open relationships between our school staff and our families. And a commitment from all parties to put our students, and their futures, first. 

“The phenomenal thing is this: the vast majority of our students from year one are still here. That is incredible,” he said.

The same year the school was honored for being a Reward School, the fifth-grade math cohort had the highest growth in the state of Tennessee, Elliott said.

“We have a commitment to put our kids first in everything that we do,” Elliott said. “I am proud of the commitment of our staff and families. And most of all, I am proud of our students.”

Such was the common thread with all the remarks Tuesday morning. Parent Mandy Mandy Chopp said her family had “found a home” at LEAD Southeast. Another parent, Tammy Rockett, talked about how both families and teachers alike find common ground by being advocates for the students.

“The teachers love their students,” she said. “Here, they listen to us. This is an amazing school – not just academic-wise, but relationship-wise.”

Guests were greeted with two incredible performances by the school’s Little Kids Rock Band. Again, most grabbed their phones and started shooting video or taking pictures as the kids blew the audience away with covers of Bastille’s “Pompeii” and Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive.”

LEAD CEO Chris Reynolds issued closing remarks in which he, too, thanked the community for its support, including representatives from CapStar Bank, who has partnered with LEAD on the Metroplex renovations from the very beginning.

“Our commitment is to make sure a great school, close to home is a real possibility for all families across the city,” Reynolds said before the official ribbon-cutting with CapStar Bank’s president and CEO Claire Tucker. “It is an honor to be here and a privilege to operate a public school. On behalf of our entire board, and all of our staff, thank you for your support.”

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LEAD will be hosting another celebration of a Reward School this coming Tuesday, Nov. 3 at Cameron. Cameron is the first-ever conversion school in the state of Tennessee, one that earned Reward School status for the 2013-2014 school year. Mayor Megan Barry, Commissioner Candice McQueen and other dignitaries are expected to attend the celebration, which begins at 9 a.m. at the 1034 First Avenue South location. To RSVP for the event, please contact LEAD’s Director of Development, Ruthie Huggins, at ruthie.huggins@leadpublicschools.org.

Any media interested in covering the Cameron event are asked to contact LEAD’s Director of Communications, Jon Zlock, via jon.zlock@leadpublicschools.org.