A gunman opened fire in an elementary school in Rio de Janeiro killing 12 kids and then himself.
Abigail Valencia is driven, focused and absolutely committed.
"One of my big goals that I have for myself is to go to college. That is what motivates me every day," Valencia said.
== Desperate Demand for YES ==
At Houston's YES Prep, Valencia has plenty of company. The institution is an open enrollment, 10 campus charter district whose grade 6 to 12 students have consistently earned the deeply coveted state rating "exemplary".
"We have our teachers go to every single student's home and sign a 'commitment to college' contract and it just starts there," said Jason Bernal, YES Prep's president.
It's a commitment and level of performance that's created a clamor. No fewer than 9,000 mostly low income Houston families sit impatiently on the YES prep waiting list.
== Pushed to Excel ==
The principle attraction is an unwavering, iron clad expectation.
"In order to graduate from YES, you have to be accepted to a 4-year college or university," Bernal said.
To reach that prize, regular students are pushed by highly enthusiastic teachers.
Longer days and more homework are carefully combined with after-hours access to instructors.
"It is the teachers who are motivating the students to do their best and excel," Bernal said.
== Bringing Innovation to the Table ==
"There's no fights like other schools. No drugs. We are like a family," added Valencia, a 10th grader at the Gulfton campus.
It is a family that would clearly be much larger if YES prep had more than it's current 5,400 slots.
"I feel that students are suffering and that families are suffering too. I feel that we are slowing down innovation. I think that's what charter schools bring to the education community," Bernal said.
Abigail Valencia says along with her classmates, she's on a mission to change the perceptions that low income, minority kids have difficulty succeeding.
"We are going to prove those statistics wrong," she insisted.
For more stories from KRIV in Houston go to myfoxhouston.com