GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Newsweek Magazine has named Gautier High School one of the top 500 high schools in the country. It's under the category of "Beating the Odds". In other words, a great school for low income students.
More than 70 percent of the students at Gautier High qualify for free or reduced meals based on family income. Even with that monetary hardship, that hasn't stopped students from rising to the top in the classroom.
Every day at Gautier High, there are reminders of what students can accomplish. The school's mascot is the gator, and students are hungry for knowledge. The teachers are dedicated and involved.
So is the principal, Boyd West, who makes just one promise to his students, no matter what their economic background may be.
"They understand when they walk through the doors of our school, they are going to be taken care of, they're going to be pushed to excel. And our teachers work real hard to get the maximum effort out of their kids on a daily basis," West explained.
One of those students is Neaholyah Williams, who will become the first in her family to graduate and go on to college.
"I really just want to get through school, get my education, really just graduate and walk the field for my Mama," Williams said.
Again, teachers are the key ingredient for this educational vision and national ranking. One of them is Amanda Brown.
"Of course, that's one of our biggest honors. That's why we teach so we can reach kids and reach them on a level and make them achieve things that they never thought were possible," Brown exclaimed.
Another teacher is Linda Blackwell.
"We've been working with these kids and every year they seem to get more confident, better at what they do and they are a joy to work with," Blackwell said.
While teachers and administrators at Gautier High School are proud of the award, it shows their commitment to students, who otherwise might not achieve their goals. They also hope it leads to even bigger and better things in the future, according to West.
"We have kids that are college ready, but they aren't necessarily attending college. So I think we need to continue to instill in our kids that they are capable of going to college and becoming even more successful than they are here," West said.
Success coupled with a national award--a combination that's hard to beat.
Despite the economic challenges facing some of the students at Gautier High, the school boasts a graduation rate of more than 85 percent.