Columbia, SC (WLTX) - There's a school in Columbia where 80 percent of their students live at, or below the poverty line. But when it comes to success, for some students in the Midlands, that doesn't matter.
Beating the odds. That's what the principal of South Kilbourne Elementary, Sarah Smith, see's her teachers and students do every day.
"Our teachers work tirelessly," explains Smith. "They work as a team and every child is everyone's child."
South Kilbourne has been nominated for a Blue Ribbon Award, one of the highest education honors in the country.
"We have done an exceptional job with testing."
Besides high test scores, to be nominated, a school must have a disadvantaged student rate of at least 40 percent. This school's is double that.
"I would say about 80 percent... from disadvantaged backgrounds. But even with that, you know, we don't look at that. We just take them in. When they walk across that threshold, as we call it, to South Kilbourne, we do everything in our powers to make sure they get the best possible education. And they know it."
Smith credits her teachers, like 4th grade math and science teacher Derrick Theirse, and a flexible teaching method called 'responster intervention'.
"My teachers say, 'I don't know what we're going to do day to day'. Because we make the changes necessary for our students."
The school follows district and state guidelines, however; they're able to mold their teaching plan according to the students. This past year, 100 percent of Theirse's students passed the PASS math test.
"Just letting them know that they have the potential," said Theirse, "it's basically what they want to do with that potential."
But his responsibilities go beyond multiplication and division.
"I try to establish relationships with my kids. I have several kids that will walk around during the day calling me 'dad', which I don't have a problem with. If I'm that role model, then hey! Whatever I can basically do to keep them on the right path, not a problem."
Smith believes that South Kilbourne Elementary deserves the National Blue Ribbon Award because they believe in their students. Educators here don't see statistics they see a very bright future.
"Although we have the 90 percent free and reduced lunch," said Smith, "when you walk into our school you could not tell. Because it's not on the face of our kids, it's not on the face of our teachers."
The winner of the Blue Ribbon Award will be announced in fall of 2012.