PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — They’re Catholic schools complete with singing, religious instruction and prayer.

Although the students wear Catholic school uniforms and are subject to Catholic school discipline, 99 percent are non-Catholic and come from disadvantaged neighborhoods.

But they’re finding a sense of purpose where many of their peers are headed down the wrong road.

Malik Townsend of the North Side: “They’re like getting into violence and gang activities.”

Andy Sheehan: “And what about you?”

Townsend: “Well, I’m just … trying to make it.”

Lana Macklin of Sheridan: “That’s the choice that I want to make. I want to do something good.”

In its 22-year history, Extra Mile has built an astounding record of academic success.

Recently, two Extra Mile schools consolidated into what was once Vann Elementary public school. But where Vann failed — St. Benedict the Moor students are thriving.

“After three years all of our children are at or above grade levels in terms of where they’re supposed to be,” says Extra Mile’s Ambrose Murray.

And while city school struggle with a dropout rate of 50 percent, 96 percent of Extra Mile students graduate high school. Almost all go on to college, trade school or the military.

“I think it’s the dedication of the teachers, the commitment of our parents,” says Joelynn Parham, St. Benedict’s principal.

Unilke public schools — all parents are required to pay at least some tuition – even its jut a small percentage of the total bill – and they must stay involved.

Students can also be expelled.

Pittsburgh school Superintendent Dr. Linda Lane is quick to point out the differences but says Extra Mile does embody many of the qualities her district strives for.

“A climate of purposefulness that is something that I know all our schools are working on and as we talk about strong environments where teachers can teach and students can learn,” she said.

Extra Mile Education Foundation
More Reports By Andy Sheehan

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