In establishing two Tennessee preparatory schools, Samford University alumni Ted and Kelly Alling have literally made the grade.
In 2002, the Allings started logistics company Access America Transport with Barry Large and Allan Davis, also Samford alumni. Twelve years later, Access America Transport was sold to Coyote Logistics, and the Allings moved to London, England, for a year-long sabbatical. As serial entrepreneurs, they considered what they wanted to tackle next.
That question was quickly answered upon their return home to Chattanooga, Tennessee. After visiting a girls’ charter school, Chattanooga Girls Leadership School, they saw through experience and data how the girls were thriving in educational progress.
Kelly Alling immediately said, “We need to start a brother school.”
So, that’s what they did.
After taking a year to plan, the doors of Chattanooga Preparatory School opened in 2018, informally referred to as “Chatt Prep.” The school currently has 383 boys in sixth through 10th grades, but it will eventually go to 12thgrade, as it welcomes about 70 boys per year into sixth grade.
With its purpose to provide educational opportunities for young men impacted by poverty and education inequity, Chattanooga Preparatory School provides students with individualized instruction, small class sizes, rigorous academic programs and STEM curriculum (science, technology, engineering and math). Life skills, leadership and character development opportunities, as well as social-emotional strategies, are woven into the curriculum to teach resilience, persistence, grit and self-discipline.
The school also has tutors who work toward moving all students to proficient or advanced academic levels, as well as mentors who are paired with the students to guide them through their seven-year educational journey. There is also an intentional effort to eliminate barriers through school-operated wrap-around services, such as providing assistance with food, uniforms, laptops and home internet access.
In addition to robust academic programs, the school offers extended days and summer programs. After-school activities include tutoring, homework help, chess, art, guitar, choir, book club, Green Car Club and athletics, all aimed at encouraging the boys to stay active.
“Being smart at our school is cool,” Ted Alling said. “Our chess team is revered just as much as the football or basketball team.”
There are numerous internship and job shadowing opportunities available to students, as well as emphasis on college preparation and resources. College visits begin in sixth grade and just last year, Chattanooga Preparatory students visited seven college campuses. In September of this year, students visited Samford, where they heard from several university leaders and enjoyed lunch with Samford basketball coaches and players. The Allings were able to share their alma mater with their students, as Kelly Alling is an alumna of Orlean Beeson School of Education and Ted Alling is an alumnus of Brock School of Business.
When asked why they feel so passionate about investing in the education of the next generation, Ted Alling said, “God has blessed our family, and we want to give these young men the same education that our own kids have gotten. We don't want zip codes to define outcomes. We can’t imagine not doing this work now. It has really opened our eyes up to the obstacles a lot of families are dealing with.”
As for what’s next for the Allings in the field of education, they aren’t stopping anytime soon. Their second school, “Knox Prep,” is scheduled to open next year in Knoxville, Tennessee.