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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Just outside the core of Winston-Salem’s downtown sits one of the most unconventional schools in the Piedmont-Triad, known simply as the Winston-Salem Street School.

On Tuesday, the school welcomed 48 students for its 15th year in operation. But those students are special in the sense that they did not flourish in a conventional school setting. In simpler terms, they’re what administrators refer to as at-risk.

“We’re really here to try to provide an alternative for those students,” said Street School Executive Director Mike Foster.

The Street School stays in close contact with guidance counselors from the public school system, allowing them to find students from the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School system, as well as from other districts, who are underperforming.

“The people around me, they wouldn’t let me learn,” said David Amaya, a former North Forsyth student. “They had dropped me because of my attendance.”

Amaya is now in his second year at Street School. Last year, he earned the title of “student of the year.”

“I feel like I did have the potential,” he said. “I just didn’t have the environment to display it.”

With a 10:1 student to teacher ratio, instructors can not only give students educational attention, but personal attention as well.

“I love my life, I love going to school and I became more stabilized,” said student Amy Garcia Gonzalez. “It all kind of just changed and I’m glad this opportunity’s out here.”

The school, which is fully accredited by the National Association of Private Schools, offers students a chance to earn a degree instead of a GED.

Since 2004, the school says they have graduated nearly 200 students.

“Everyone that’s associated with this organization believes wholeheartedly in each student that comes in here,” Foster said.

The school graduated 23 students last year, Foster said, which is a new high for them. Many of the students then go on to work in specific fields, go to trade school or 4-year universities.

“It’s changed my mindset. I know I became a better person because my friends will tell me. They’re like, ‘you’ve changed.’ I’ll say stuff, I feel smart, I’ll motivate them also,” Amaya said. “So, they’ll feel the need to want to get more education also.”

The Winston-Salem Street School operates solely on financial and in-kind support from individuals, businesses, churches and private foundations, as well as numerous volunteer hours by caring people in the community.

To learn more about the organization or to see how you can become involved, call (336) 721-1110 or visit:​