(WMC-TV) - Dr. Willie Herenton remembers the emotional moment when God put it on his heart to help at risk youth.
He recalled going into a jail cell during a Juvenile Court mentorship.
"I said, 'Son, you have no business in this little space living your life in a cell.' So I hugged him. When I hugged him, he gave me the biggest smile," said Herenton. "I said to myself, 'Perhaps that is the first hug this young man has ever received,'" he added.
Dr. Herenton wants to educate teens serving probation in up to three of his nine W.E.B. DuBois charter schools.
He says these students need a wider safety net not found in traditional public schools.
"They repeat some type of offense because the school is not equipped to deal with them from a behavioral modification point of view," Herenton explained.
For the first time, we're learning about a new element to his plan.
Dr. Herenton identified blight that followed past school closures.
Tuesday, he will propose to the school board that they allow his consortium to convert up to three schools on the proposed closure list into charter schools for at risk youth.
"No one really wanted that at risk population, but I do," said Herenton.
Dr. Herenton says the school merger battle has shifted the educational paradigm in Memphis and Shelby County.
"It's fraught with all kinds of ill feelings and political bickering, turf protections and it's cutting across a sub-sector of students that are being left out," he stated.
He said by God's grace, he did not fall through the cracks and he wants to close those cracks for other children.
Dr. Herenton said his students would have a strict dress code with blazers, ties and no saggy pants. He will present his plan to the Shelby County Board of Education Tuesday night.