WILSON, N.C. (WTVD) -- A North Carolina school is the one of 15 charter schools across the country gaining national recognition. The Sallie B. Howard School of Arts and Sciences is the only state charter school to receive the National Blue Ribbon School award for closing the achievement gap.
"When I first came here I didn't know I could act, or dance, or sing. The teachers and the staff show you can do whatever you want," said 9th grader Kiara Hayley.
Another student, Nathan Reyes, is a theatre major who wants to be an actor.
"I would be nervous, but theatre helps me break out of that shell leaving me to show more expression," said Reyes.
Officials held a small ceremony honoring the school's excellence and namesake Sallie B. Howard, who was the daughter of a sharecropper, a Wilson native, educator and advocate for communities of color.
"Schools that serve the demographic we serve: low-income, African American, Hispanic...their school report card grade on state exams is D and F. Ours is a B consistently," said Dr. Joanne Woodard, founder of the school.
Today, its student population is more than 1,000 Black and Latino students. The charter school serves the heart of rural Wilson County.
Principal Pratiba Rani has implemented a mantra of every child can learn with the right support.
"They were getting that label of, I'm EC, I can't do that, but now everybody is to the point where no matter who you are if you come two grade levels below, I have the formula to help you," she said.
It is helping students like Hayley and Reyes dream big and reach for the stars.
"It's so positive. It just shows this is a good school to be at," said Hayley.