A Legacy to Celebrate: The First Graduating Class at Charles R. Drew Charter School

On Saturday, May 20, Charles R. Drew Charter School in the East Lake neighborhood of Atlanta graduated its first class of high school seniors. Since opening as Atlanta’s first charter school in 2000, Drew has become one of the best examples of how to build a cradle-to-college education pipeline, one of the pillars of the Purpose Built Communities Model. Leaders from across the country have walked the halls to see this unique learning environment, and now its students will be traveling to colleges and universities far and wide to continue their education.

Several news stories have marked this important occasion; below are excerpts from some of those stories and further reflections from people who have helped bring the vision of this school to life.

The fact that Drew has been open for enough years to have evolved and to have been a neighborhood school for all these years means we can create a pathway and a model for other schools. And our colleagues at Purpose Built Schools are taking the lessons from Drew directly and applying them at four schools in Atlanta. That work is informing what is happening around the country in other neighborhoods that are part of the Purpose Built Network. (From the Atlanta-Journal Constitution)

Carol Redmond Naughton, President of Purpose Built Communities; Carol is the former Executive Director of the East Lake Foundation and is a Board Member of Drew Charter School.


There will never be a first graduating class again. They have trail-blazed. They are setting the path. They will establish many of the traditions that will continue on for years to come.

Peter McKnight, Principal of the Drew Charter School Senior Academy


Drew Charter School graduating its inaugural high school senior class represents the promise and opportunity for the East Lake Community. This senior class is the punctuation for the East Lake Foundation’s Cradle-to-College Education pipeline which has fundamentally disrupted the cradle-to-prison pipeline more than 22 years ago.  The graduating class represents what is possible for any community when it’s focused on structured, coordinate, collaborative support of young people. 

At the center of any healthy vibrant diverse community are high quality – high achieving schools which flourish from a committed group of stakeholders including students, parents, faculty, partners, residents – all of who give of themselves and their gifts.  While all of its seniors don’t live in the East Lake community, each of their families chose to trust Drew Charter School and the East Lake community to education, nurture, develop and catapult young scholar leaders to best reach their potential. 

Daniel Shoy, President and CEO of the East Lake Foundation


The professors are always willing to help after hours and before hours. They want you to understand the content so you could use it later on in life, not just pass a test. (From Golf Digest)

Legacy class member Simone Obleton, the top player on the Drew Charter girl’s golf team who will be attending Tuskegee University to major in architectural construction science, Last year, Obleton’s engineering class created a remote-controlled lawn mower for a disabled man. This year, following the highly-publicized death of a 22-month-old Georgia boy in June 2014 and subsequent murder trial of his father, they received a $10,000 grant from MIT to create an alert system to monitor child or pet presence in the backseat of a car. They’ll be the only school from Georgia when they present their device at MIT’s EurekaFest in June.


Drew has an excellent community where you constantly have the teachers and staff pushing you to accomplish what it is that you should be doing in life.  (From APlus)

Alvin Winston, a graduating senior and student leader who will attend Yale in the fall