SAINT-MARC, Haiti -

More than four years after Haiti's devastating earthquake, Haiti's substandard schools remain a roadblock to its progress. But the opening of one new school there may begin a seismic change in education, and this "Hope for Haiti" comes with South Florida connections.

Local 10's Glenna Milberg traveled to Saint-Marc, about a two-hour drive north of Port-au-Prince, for the school's official opening.

On the way from Port-au-Prince to Saint-Marc, there are still miles of tents, shacks, scavenged wood and corrugated metal. Some half-built homes still sprout rusting rebar. Even four years after Haiti's earthquake, it is still a crumbled and struggling country.

Half of Haitian children do not go to school.

"The families are so poor," said teacher Roland Pierre Louis. "Sometimes they leave the countryside and enter in the city to ask for money. That's the way it is."

Now, a new school -- what some may call a lifeline -- may become a post-earthquake seismic shift for Haiti, starting with the children.

Haiti's president speaks to Glenna Milberg about new school

MY FIRST THOUGHT WAS THAT IT'S AN AMAZING OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO THE COUNTRY AND TO BRING CHANGE TO CHILDREN. IT'S A COMPLEX COUNTRY, AS YOU KNOW, WELCOMING PEOPLE, PRETTY COMPLICATED. THEY ARE THE CHANGE MAKERS. AND SOUTH FLORIDA IS WELL REPRESENTED. LAYING A FOUNDATION FOR WHAT COULD BE A SEISMIC CHANGE IN HOW HAITIAN CHILDREN LEARN BEST PRACTICES WILL CHANGE TEACHERS, CULTURAL INFUSION, ALL IN A HURRICANE PROOF, EARTHQUAKE RESISTANT SUSTAINABLE SCHOOL IN ST. MARKS, HAITI. IN THIS REGION OF POVERTY AND HARDSHIP THE SCHOOL IS ALL EXPENSES PAID FOR EVENTUALLY 700 FUTURES PLUS UNIFORMS, BOOKS, EVEN MEALS, ALL PROVIDED. THE NEW SCHOOL BUILD ENTIRELY ON PRIVATE DONATIONS IS CONSIDERED SUCH A MODEL FOR CHANGE THAT HAITI'S PRESIDENT ATTEND ITS OFFICIAL OPENING RECENTLY AND SO DID WE. PRESIDENT MARTELLY GAVE US A RARE ONE-ON-ONE INTERVIEW ABOUT ITS POSSIBILITIES. YOU LOOK AT THESE BEAUTIFUL HAPPY CHILDREN WITH AN UNBELIEVABLE POSSIBILITY HERE. AND YOU LEAVE THE GATES AND TELL ME YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE FOR THE CHILDREN TO BE ED CATED. FIRST OF ALL, I'M HAPPY THAT I HAVE THE-- THIS PROJECT BECAUSE THROUGH THESE KIDS I SEE THE SUCCESS OF THIS MODEL ALREADY AND I'M VERY ENCOURAGED ABOUT HELPING TO REPLICATE THIS BECAUSE I'M VERY FRUSTRATED. TO MAKE EDUCATION A PRIORITY. I HAVE SAID FREE ACCESS TO EDUCATION. BUT OUR PROBLEM IS THAT OUR INFRASTRUCTURES ARE NOTHING LIKE THIS OUR TEACHERS ARE NOT TRAINED AND DO NOT HAVE THE CAPACITY LIKE THE STATES OR CANADA WHO ARE WORK HERE. THE ENVIRONMENT IS NOT THE SAME. OF COURSE. SO IN THIS CASE I SEE KIDS WHO ARE JUST AT THE BEGINNING OF THEIR STUDIES BUT SEEM TO BE BRIGHTER THAN KIDS WHO ARE FINISHED SCHOOL IN THE PAST AND DO NOT KNOW MUCH. THIS IS AN IMPORTANT PROJECT. WITH ALL THE MONEY THAT HAS BEEN GIVEN AND DONATED TO CREATE THIS MODEL, HOW DO YOU REPLICATE THIS ACROSS HAITI WITH THE RESOURCES THAT THIS RI HAS. THE THING IS YOU DON'T HAVE TO THINK ABOUT THE AMOUNTED OF MONEY FIRST BUT THE OBJECTIVE. I THINK EDUCATION IS NUMBER ONE. WE LOOK LIKE A COUNTRY WHO HAS BEEN AT WAR AN WE'VE NEVER BEEN TO WAR. WE HAVE A MENTALITY PROBLEM. WE HAVE LACK OF EDUCATION. IT'S TIME FOR US NOW TO SEND EVERYBODY TO SCHOOL SO THEY CAN BE EDUCATED GET BACK TO CIVIL, GET RID OF THE -- CULTURAL CHANGE. A CHANGE IN CULTURE. CERTAINLY AND I BELIEVE WHEN YOU HAVE YOUR OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE THIS TYPE OF EDUCATION YOUR STATE OF MIND CHANGES. YOU BECOME MORE POSITIVE FOR YOURSELF, YOUR FAMILY, AND YOUR COUNTRY. SO MONEY I'M FINE. ON THIS PROJECT, THERE ARE INCOME ISSUES. FOR INSTANCE I KNOW OF THE WATER PROBLEM THEY HAVE SPENT A HUGE AMOUNT OF MONEY TO FIND WATER AROUND HERE AND THERE IS NO WATER. AND YET THAT HASN'T STOPPED MY FRIEND HERE FROM BEING SO ENGAGED IN MAKING -- THAT'S WHY I'M PROMISING TO SHARE THIS, WE ARE GOING TO SEE HOW WE CAN BRING THE NATIONAL COMPANY, USE SOME FUNDS FROM THE UNION, ABOUT $200 MILLION JUST FOR WATER, TO COME AND HELP US. BECAUSE WE'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT SPENDING MONEY. WE'RE TALKING ABOUT SAVING KIDS. WE'RE TALKING ABOUT GIVING LIFE, WE'RE TALKING ABOUT CHANGING THE ENVIRONMENT SO IT'S WORTH WHATEVER AMOUNT NEEDS TO BE SPENT. TALKING ABOUT EDUCATION. THIS COUNTRY GETS QUIT A, SR.ABLE AMOUNT OF FOREIGN AID, QUITE A BIT OF MONEY FROM THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT AND I READ THE GOVERNMENT REPORTS SHOWING THAT THE UNITED STATES, USAIG MONEY HERE IS NOT REALLY MEETING THE GOAL THAT IT SET OUT TO MEET. WELL, JUST BECAUSE IN THE PAST THEY HAVE IDENTIFIED THE PROJECTS NOW WE HAVE PUT IN PLACE AN INSTITUTION TH THAT-- THESE NGOs, U.S. AID AND OTHERS NOW THEY COME TO US. THEY WORK WITH US. WE IDENTIFY OUR PRIORITIES AND THEY INJECT MONEY IN THOSE SECTORS SO YET IN THE PAST IT WAS-- BUT TODAY WE ARE CHANGING THE WAY THINGS ARE DONE. AND JUST A FEW DAYS AGO THE NUMBER TWO STATE DEPARTMENT WAS HERE AND THEY ARE VERY IMPRESSED WITH OUR PROGRESS AND THEY WANT US TO SHOW THEM HOW TO MOVE FORWARD SO PEOPLE HAVE MORE CONFIDENCE IN HAITI NOW. I HAVE DONE A LOT OF EFFORT IN TWO YEARS TO BE ON EVERY INTERNATIONAL PLATFORM TO SHOW THIS NEW HAITI, THIS NEW MOVEMENT. OF COURSE PEOPLE'S LIVES HAVE NOT CHANGED HERE BUT THE-- HAS CHANGED. THE GOVERNMENT HAS CHANGED. TODAY YOU HAVE A GOVERNMENT THAT IS RESPONSIBLE WHO WANTS TO PROVIDE SERVICE HE DOESN'T PRIORITIZE REBUILDING THE PALACE FIRST. WE CAN WORK ON-- RIGHT NOW INSTEAD OF REDOING THE PALACE I WOULD RATHER MAKE SURE THAT THESE KIDS HAVE WATER. I WOULD RATHER MAKE SURE THAT WE CAN REPLICATE THIS IN EVERY DEPARTMENT. IS SO WITH THIS COUNTRY THEN W HAITI NOT ASKING FOR AID BUT TRADE, HAITI PUTTING-- TAKE TO THE RECORD ITS OPPORTUNITIES, OFFERING OPPORTUNITIES, HAITI ALMOST REFUSING DONATION BUT ASKING FOR INVESTMENT SO WE CAN CREATE JOBS. PEOPLE ARE MORE CONFIDENT IN COMING HERE. AND WE HAVE NUMBERS TOO, ECONOMIC GROWTH WE WENT FROM 2.4% TO 4.3, INFLATION IS DOWN FROM 5 TO 4.5. HAITI IS RANKED NUMBER 47 RIGHT AFTER THE UNITED STATES IN FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND SO MANY OTHER GOOD NEWS. HAITI IS ONE OF THE MOST SECURED COUNTRY IN THE REGON AND IT'S A FACT FROM THE NUMBERS IT, 7 FOR EVERY 100,000 PEOPLE. I'M LISTENING TO YOU SPEAK AND I'M THINKING TO MYSELF THAT THIS GENERATION OF CHILDREN ARE GOING TO BE GREATING UP KNOWING A DIFFERENT MESSAGE THAN THEIR PARENTS OR GRANDPARENTS. KNOWING A DIFFERENT MESSAGE BUT BEING PART OF A NEW HAITI. THEY ARE THE NEW HAITI. BECAUSE YOU KNOW, THERE IS NO LIMIT WHEN YOU HAVE THIS, AND THEY SEEM TO BE ON THE RIGHT PATH WITH WHAT IS BEING DONE HERE. I CAN SEE T I CAN SENSE IT. BECAUSE BEING THE LEADER OF THAT CHANGE ON EDUCATION, I VISIT MANY SCHOOLS AND I SEE. I SEE IT I SEE THAT KIDS ARE RESTRAINED, THEY ARE SHY, THEY ARE AFRAID OF PEOPLE, THEY DON'T REALLY HAVE THE RIGHT INFORMATION. THEY DON'T SPEAK EVEN CREOLE, NOW, WE JUST HAVE A PROGRAM, I SEE A NEW GENERATION AND I'M NOT SAYING THAT IT'S ONLY HAPPENING HERE IT IS SURELY A SUCCESS BUT FOR BEING SUCH A SUCCESS WHICH WOULD LIKE EVERY OTHER SCHOOL TO BE LIKE THIS ONE. A DAUNTING GOAL, PRESIDENT MARTELLY.

Happy, engaged, curious and confident, the students at the new Lycee John Baptiste Point Du Sable are getting college-prep education, including classes where they will learn French, Creole and English.

For the students, it's all expenses paid -- uniforms, books, even meals provided -- in a hurricane-proof, earthquake-resistant, sustainable school, with international teachers and best practices.

The curriculum is infused with Haitian culture and pride.

"I always wanted to come back to where my family is from and give back to Haiti," said teacher Rene Genevieve.

The school is solar-powered and for now they import water. The school is all built and run by private donations, organized by people in the U.S. -- retail/travel industries, a significant number of them in South Florida.

"It was a matter of finding a community that had a vision for itself and that was ready to welcome that time of project," said Olivier Bottrie, with Lycee John Baptiste Point Du Sable.

After the earthquake, Bottrie spent a month looking for a site for the school, and found it in the cracked dry hills of Saint-Marc.

"It's a complex country, as you know," Bottrie said. "(There are) welcoming people but the politics are pretty complicated."

The school is now considered by Haitian leaders as the most important education investment outside Port-au-Prince.

Haiti's president, Michel Martelly, attended its official opening.

"In these kids I see kids who are just at the beginning of their studies but seem to be brighter than kids who are finished school in the past and do not know much," Martelly said.

"My first thought was that it was an amazing opportunity to make a difference to the country," said Benny Klepach, a South Florida philanthropist.

To bring change to children, Klepach is part of the South Florida Connection, a company that has given millions in donations, priceless intentions to protect the future of a country so important and so connected to so many in South Florida.

Due to the limited space in the new school, everyone has to apply, and they are chosen based on scholarship. Because those who choose the students know where the kids are going back to, they want the future leaders of Haiti to come from the new school.

The school is now Saint-Marc's major employer with 80 new jobs, and the school is also growing a farming industry by reforesting land stripped bare for firewood.

"We're not talking about spending money, we're talking about saving kids," said Martelly. "We're talking about giving life, we're talking about changing the environment."

And they're talking about replicating the model of the school to produce Haiti's next generation of leaders.

There is one requirement for the graduates at the school -- they must agree to stay in Haiti, to put their education and leadership skills toward Haiti's growth and progress.