In one of Durham's most crime-ridden neighborhoods, these elementary school students are learning the power of positivity

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DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- It's in one of Durham's most crime-ridden neighborhoods, but this school is receiving a national honor thanks to a framework that's reshaping how the classroom is operating.

First-grader Natalie is curious. Smart. And most importantly, she understands the power of positivity.

That's no coincidence.

For the past two years, her classroom, like all other classrooms at Burton Elementary School, has shifted focus.

Dr. Kimberly Ferrell, the school principal, leads by example.

It was two years ago that Dr. Ferrell, along with 11 other schools inside of Durham Public Schools, implemented the "Capturing Kids Hearts" framework.

The focus?

The whole child from the moment they arrive at school to even how mom and dad are at home.

The results are undeniable.

Already, a massive increase in parental involvement, attendance rates now just 96 percent and behavioral issues declining. The focus here is not on punishing bad behavior but understanding the root cause.

That's brought a decrease to short-term suspensions.

On top of that success, the school has seen an increase in academic growth.

"The kids now, they want to be here because of the engagement, they know we love them because we have built positive relationships with them," said Dr. Ferrell.

Now, the school is being recognized on a national level. A banner hangs displaying the "Capturing Kids Hearts" National Showcase Award for inclusion, connections and respect.

But the inner workings of shifting the school dynamic aren't understood by Natalie and her fellow classmates.

All she knows is: "when we see people having a hard time, we help them."
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