Thirty-eight students are now Knoxville's newest high school graduates. The Dr. Paul L. Kelley Volunteer Academy had its largest December graduation in the school's history on Thursday.
It was mostly smiles for a school that recently lost its figurehead. Kelley died on December 16th at the age of 84.
Teachers say there's no better way to honor their schools' namesake than by the graduation.
"He wanted every student to have the opportunity to have an education. Those students who had struggles, he was there right for them and he made sure he was their voice. And those of us who were touched by him, the educators who were touched by him, we made sure that his voice continues today," said math teacher Jannice Clark.
The Kelley Academy is located within Knoxville Center Mall. It serves about 200 at-risk students during the day to help them earn high school diplomas and college scholarships.
Students represent all other 13 high schools within Knox County.