Former Central High School student becomes principal two decades later

For Cherise Ayers, life has come full circle. 

She walked the halls of Central High School as a student more than two decades ago, and now she’s the principal. 

"It’s surreal to be in the principal’s office and it’s my office. It’s amazing, it’s absolutely amazing," Ayers told FOX 9. 

Her school spirit spans generations. 

"My mother is an alum. She’s class of 1970. My sisters, class of 1987. Me,1997. I have about a dozen cousins here and my own kids are here. So, I understand the benefit and power of a Central High School education," Ayers says.

When asked what she was like as a student, Ayers responds with a short laugh, and then takes on a serious tone. 

"I was late to class almost every day, but I was engaged, and I got my work done." Ayers said. 

Her homecoming now brings with it a return of the past. 

"Mary Beth Redmond, who is my administrative assistant, she used to write my tardy passes. So yes, she’s been here at least 26 years," Ayers says.

The mom of two got her start in education as a teacher, and says that closing the achievement gap remains a top priority. 

"One thing that I want to make sure that happens is that we are serving all of our students that we are serving our most marginalized students just as well as we’re serving those who come from privilege," Ayers says. "People love Central and they stay, and I think that speaks to what an amazing place it is.

Back to school, for Ayers a new chapter begins in familiar territory.

"You know I think I represent possibility. And I represent I hope, spirit," Ayers says.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter was also part of Ayers' 1997 graduating class. The new administrator says that the theme for this school year is "We're in this together."

She's encouraging students to take care of each other and to learn to advocate for themselves.