Using the Frederick Douglass quote “it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men,” Chattanooga’s Orchard Knob Middle School is on a mission to make some drastic changes.

Citing the deaths, and suicide attempts of several students in recent years, the school is recruiting community members to change the mindset of its male students. 

Principal Tiffany Earvin is more than just a principal at Orchard Knob Middle School.  She was a student here, before continuing her education at Howard High and Tennessee State University.  She is passionate about redirecting the the tragic journeys she sees in her students lives.

She says many of her male students make poor choices because they feel life isn’t worth living…and that they will not live to see their high school graduation.  For them, she says, 8th grade promotion is the highest goal they seek to obtain, because a high school diploma seems unreachable.

Those are among the reasons she organized the State of our Boys forum, spotlighting successful African-American men who overcame poverty and broken homes to beat the odds.  Former NFL star Tony Brown says the strong showing of men who are willing to mentor, can help Orchard Knob’s boys from descending into a life of despair.

Orchard Knob’s male students are suspended at a rate more than twice that of females.  It’s one of many challenges faced by a school that has been targeted by the state for possible takeover. 

Officials say events like this prove that no one is ignoring the problem.  Instead, they’re showing the community and the state, they’re willing to go the extra mile to seek solutions.

The forum is by no means a one-time event.  Principal Earvin calls it the first of many such endeavors, and many of the men who participated today made commitments to return to the school, even providing summertime activities for Orchard Knob's male students.