SPARKS, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) -- One local charter school is starting the year off on the right foot, after finishing last year with a 95 percent graduation rate.
"I feel like we're the best kept secret in Sparks," said Alpine Academy Principal Jill Ross.
Ross said they're working to spill that secret.
"A lot of people in the area think charter schools are last chance schools and so we have a lot of students that are about to drop out and such, but that's not true," she said.
They have 105 students as they start their sixth year and Ross said they've made big strides since opening.
"Our first graduation class was four years ago, [it had a] 45 percent graduation rate," Ross said. "Last year, four years later, we had a 95 percent graduation rate."
Ross said they did it by raising the bar for students.
"To get the percentages up we had to add a lot of rigor," she said. "We had to do a lot of remedial work. We added some classes that helped students catch up to where they needed to be."
Vice Principal Tawni Phelps said they made keeping that momentum a priority. A big part of that is teaching the kids about character.
Phelps said she sees students talking about the values they're learning.
"'Hey, you need a little bit more grit today,'" she said. "'Hey, you're feeling pretty zesty' and it's funny because it becomes part of their vocabulary."
They'd love to see more kids find their zest for school at Alpine.
"We are happy to teach any student willing to learn," Ross said. "That's the key word: willing. If they don't want to work hard, this is not the school for them."