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In 2006, Sue Anne Wells and Maxine Bailey, community advocates and supporters of programs for women and girls, sat down at a kitchen table to have a cup of coffee. The conversation turned to the academic and social development needs of girls from Chattanooga’s disadvantaged communities—and the noteworthy success of single-gender programs serving girls outside of school time. During the course of that conversation, a question was posed, a question which launched a community-wide conversation that is still on-going: “What could happen if we provide girls with an enriching, single-gender learning environment during and beyond the school day? What if we started an all-girls school accessible to educationally underserved girls?” Based on that conversation, the founders formed the Young Women’s Leadership Academy Foundation (YWLAF) and began the process of researching, planning, and developing the blueprint for the Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, the first charter school to be approved by the Hamilton County Board of Education.

In July of 2009, the vision of the founders reached a milestone as seventy-five girls entered the historic James A. Henry building as the inaugural cohort of students at the Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy (CGLA). The first day of school was a milestone for the girls—and for our community. Along with CGLA staff, these girls and their families embarked on an exciting journey. This journey entered a new phase during the 2011-12 school year as CGLA moved to a new location in Highland Park (the former Tennessee Temple Academy building) to accommodate the school’s growth. CGLA has continued to expand to serve grades 6-12 and offers a college-preparation curriculum, which emphasizes Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM). In May 2013, the school celebrated its first graduating class! Many of these girls are the first in their family to graduate high school and go to college.

CGLA welcomes the involvement of families. Parents can frequently meet with staff to plan school activities, fulfill volunteer hours, or visit the Media Lab, a resource for CGLA families. Girls have benefited from opportunities to learn alongside prominent women and experts in a variety of fields. CGLA’s milestones reflect the talent and dedication of CGLA students, strong support from families, investments from community partners, and the expertise of CGLA educators and staff.

YWLAF established CGLA with a mission to provide girls and young women with a rigorous college preparatory education focused on science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math in a supportive environment that nurtures self confidence, inspires leadership, encourages critical thinking, and promotes academic excellence.