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"College or Die" motto inspires students and staff

Many students are returning for the fall semester and at some schools the stakes are especially high.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Many students are returning for the fall semester and at some schools the stakes are especially high.

They have to be when the school's motto is "College or Die" and it's painted in big, bold letters across the main hallway.

The school is Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School in Indianapolis.

Referring to the motto, Principal Marlon Llewellyn said, "This is our rallying cry. This is what wakes us up in the morning and gets our juices flowing. We tell people we are unapologetic and we are resilient to what we do here. Our mission is very clear."

It's to make sure that every single student is able to attend and graduate from a four-year college. Tindley, a charter school that opened 13 years ago, has a strong record of doing just that.

Llewellyn said every single Tindley graduate has been accepted to at least one four-year college and often several more. Acceptance letters sent to last year's graduates line the front entrance. They include letters from Butler, Xavier, Ball State, DePauw, Austin Peay and Indiana State University.

"Number one, it's about buy-in from parents and number two, buy-in from staff and our scholars," he said.

Tindley is a where two out of every three students qualify for the free or reduced lunch program. It's also a school where there's constant reinforcement and where seniors like Javier Gaddie take college-level classes with firm plans for the future.

"Next year I hope to be in a four-year college or university studying mechanical engineering," he said, noting it's the perfect fit for him.

"Since I was a little kid I'd always tell my mom and family I want to change the world and they said if you worked hard at it you could," Gaddie said. "So I started doing all I could to do that and a quick way to do that is to make things that change the world, and often the people who create the change are the engineers."

But being a Tindley student isn't easy. The curriculum is rigorous and the expectations high. Many students who start out at the school leave Tindley.

But for those who stick it out?

The hard work pays off with 100 percent of seniors accepted to a four-year college.

"The key to my success is to never fall behind because when they say "college or die," it really is. They treat everything like college," Gaddie said.

As a charter school, Tindley gets plenty of philanthropic help. KeyBank presented the school with a check for $12,500 Tuesday "to ensure students can take college courses while still in high school," and to allow students "to tour colleges and universities with no expense to their families."

Gaddie said he's learned the importance of giving back and hopes to do just that once he graduates from college and lands his first job. At the top of his list? His mom.

"She's done a lot for me," he said. "Like, more than you could ever imagine, so I told her when it's my turn, you're going to have nothing to worry about."

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