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Tulsa Charter School Targets Students In Area Known For High-Crime, Poverty

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TULSA, Oklahoma -

Students are back in the classroom, including a Tulsa college prep charter school targeting a part of town with high crime and poverty.

School leaders said they believe education is the key to reducing crime and poverty rates around the 61st and Peoria area.

"We are a college prep school in a community that had not previously had one," said Collegiate Hall principal and founder Nikhil Kawlra. 

Collegiate Hall takes up a hallway in Marshall Elementary's building near 61st and Peoria.

It's an area known for crime and poverty, but Kawlra said the best way to combat those numbers is education.

He said it all starts with the teachers they hire.

"They're required to tutor twice a week after school, they're required to tutor on Saturdays," Kawlra said. 

School leaders said more than half of these kids come from this community. The rest of them are bussed into school every day

Seventh grader Anna Shirley enrolled when the school opened in 2015.

Since then, she said she's seen the school locked down twice.

"We had closed the blinds and we walked all the way to this corner and we all sat and just bunched up," Shirley said. 

Shirley said she usually feels safe and protected at the school, not just because of building safety measures but because of classmates who look out for her.

"Every time I enter, they're always like...just welcoming and they're like 'it's Anna!" she said.

The principal said most students are doubling their grade levels on reading, math and science. 

And in the process, showing that kids around here are serious about learning.

"There are a lot of people that often speak about what our kids may or may not be able to and one of the things our kids are committed to is breaking any ceiling that's above their head," Kawlra said. 

The principal said the school will expand to eighth graders next year.

From there, the kids will move on to high schools in the district.

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