MIAMI – Downtown Miami Charter School, an "A" school in Overtown, is making a difference in its students' lives.
Each of the school's 650 students reads 90 minutes a day, does the same amount of math, and spends 30 minutes writing.
"We just believe that this is a place where every kid can learn," said Charter Schools USA CEO John Hage. "Every student has amazing potential, and Overtown has amazing potential. So this is an opportunity to show that these students can do anything."
Florida Trend Magazine recently named Hage its "Floridian of the Year."
Charter School USA, based in Fort Lauderdale, opened its first school 15 years ago. It now runs 48 across the U.S. with more scheduled to open next year.
We've made mistakes. Not everything we've done has been right," said Hage. "In fact, we've probably done it wrong twice before we've gotten it right once, but ultimately the results speak for themselves."
He credits better results to longer school days, Saturday sessions, and individualized goals and objectives for each student.
"It makes me want to be better in subjects like little books. It makes me want to read more and do a lot of things better," said Izaiah Cassell.
Parents are required to help, too.
Even on times when they have vacation, they come home with a nice, thick packet for the work for them to do while they are on vacation," said Darryl Rhodes, whose granddaughter attends the school. "So it keeps them real busy and those are the things that I like."
"I'm really encouraged by how much in a community like this you will get amazing results when you give people an opportunity," added Hage.
At Downtown Charter, 95 percent of students receive a free or reduced lunch, and some live in nearby shelters like Camillus House.