The foundation of City University Schools began at the time when many families in the metropolitan Memphis area were seeking public school alternatives for improved educational opportunities. Acknowledging the need, The Influence1 Foundation sought to develop an entity of its educational arm that would meet the public education need by offering an alternative institution committed to post-secondary education.
In 2004, City University School of Liberal Arts, a college preparatory public charter high school with a liberal arts core, opened its doors to welcome 63 ninth graders for the 2004-2005 school year and operated on the shared grounds of Greater Middle Baptist Church, due to the generosity of the late Dr. Benjamin Lawson Hooks, Civil Rights Leader, Minister, Judge, Attorney and Former Executive Director of the NAACP.
During the next two years, the school outgrew Greater Middle Baptist Church's shared grounds and newly renovated facilities on Winchester Road. To accommodate the increasing number of scholars, faculty and staff, City University School of Liberal Arts acquired a building lease from Memphis City Schools and relocated to the former Dunn Avenue Elementary School, a 46,000 square-foot vacant building in the South Memphis area.
The Dunn Avenue building served City University Schools' population for seven years, allowing City University School of Liberal Arts to reach more than 300 scholars in grades 9 through 12, while fostering the development and growth of City University School Boys Preparatory, Tennessee's first public charter middle school for boys and City University School Girls Preparatory, Memphis' first public charter middle school for girls.
In 2013, after assessing space needs for an expanding body of scholars, The Influence1 Foundation on behalf of City University Schools acquired the former Bishop Byrne Middle and High School building in the Whitehaven area, created a school relocation plan and proceeded with extensive building renovations that would allow City University scholars to have access to an environment conducive to their academic growth and social maturity. The over 130,000 square foot-facility houses all of City University Schools and includes its own gymnasium, 350-seat theater, art gallery, multipurpose commons area, educational resource center, TAG Parent Center, guidance department, athletic field and computer lab.
The use of the new facility allows City University Schools to further its mission and remain committed to providing scholars with ongoing opportunities of access and support in order to overcome educational barriers.