West End School celebrates retiring founders, receive $1.5M gift

West End School celebrates $1.5M gift

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS) -- A piece of art hangs on the walls of the Darrell Griffith Athletic Center. It's a tree, but where the leaves would be are handprints, each one belonging to a student, a volunteer or a staff member at the West End School.

"Our motto here for the boys, for everybody that comes through our doors is, 'To be a man is to be responsible,'" Paul Perconti, the chair of the West End School board, said.

The West End School is a free and private elementary and middle school that gives boys a chance at a better education. It was started 12 years ago by Robert and Debbie Blair with just three boys.

"We named this school West End School because we wanted people to know there was something really good going on in the West End," Debbie Blair said.

"With all the negative things we hear, read about and pray about in the West End, whether it's in the daylight or the dark light, the West End School is a beacon of blessings, it's a beacon of hope," Perconti said.

"They're making me work to my hardest, so instead of giving 100 percent, I give 1,000 percent," Jercius Thompson, a student, said.

What began with three boys is now home to 135, including Thompson, a rising eighth grader entering his final year.

"I wanted to be in the NBA, but if that doesn't work out, I'd like to be a doctor," Thompson said.

"They're kids. You give them an opportunity and they'll run with it," Blair said. "Just give them the opportunity."

After 12 years of giving these young men opportunities, the Blairs are stepping down. This Sunday's celebration with musical performances from West Louisville's own Linkin Bridge was held in honor of the Blairs's work in changing lives in the West End.

"They were great role models for all of us," Thompson said. "They pushed us through, even when we had hard times."

"The West End School's known as a factory of smiles and that's a big smile," Perconti said.

In honor of its founders, the school announced a $1.5 million gift made up of several donations. The money will go towards finishing campus developments, building a theater and a music hall, and creating an endowment in honor of the Blairs.

And in honor of its founders... a 1.5 million dollar gift to the school... money that will go towards continuing the Blair's vision.

"If it had made a difference in the life of just one boy, that would have been really quite wonderful," Blair said.

As the Blairs bid goodbye to the West End School on July 1, they'll leave knowing they've left their handprint - a blessing to the West End.

© 2017 WHAS-TV


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