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New public charter school fills a need on the east side of Indianapolis

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Posted at 6:20 PM, Apr 24, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS — A new public charter school recently opened on the east side, filling a need in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods across Indianapolis.

Once John Marshall closed, there was a need for a quality school serving families in their own neighborhood.

"Students have really bought into the fact that they can be better, they're capable, they can do better," Nicole Fama, Principle of James and Rosemary Phalen Leadership Academy, said. "The feelings of hope. There's no longer despair."

The school started as a mission for four teachers.

"Just four teachers that got together and decided that we need to make a change in Indianapolis, on the east side," Fama said.

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The four teachers took a program that they developed and taught throughout several established Indianapolis Public Schools for ten years and expanded it into something more.

"We turned around three IPS schools from an 'F' to an 'A,'" Fama said.

They took their model and partnered with an investor - Earl Phalen - to build a new junior high/high school called "Phalen Leadership Academy" on the east side.

"This is a war-torn area. The children don't have a safe space to go to here in this area," Eric Simmons, Director of Security and Student Behavior, said.

Once John Marshall closed not far from here, families didn't have a school near them.

"I think it's important for every child to have something in their neighborhood and their community that they could be proud of," Fama said. "And on the far east side, they've been lacking there for a long time."

One student says he thinks of Phalen Leadership Academy as his second home.

"You will never feel nothing like it," Eric Faden, an 8th grader at the school, said. "They care so much - it's unreal how much they care."

And for the kids here who are living in one of the most dangerous areas across the city, the teachers are changing the way they behave, treat others and even how they treat themselves.

"I've never had a father figure so I can talk to his staff or teacher about anything," Faden said.

"Before I came here, I got into fights and got kicked out of school," one student said. "I would just get suspended in a snap of a finger."

Right now, the school has nearly 300 students and have a stack of applicants just waiting to get in.

They're seeing tremendous success academically. Students celebrated when they found out they were the only school to earn an A rating on the east side last year.

"This is God's work that we're doing here. This is my ministry, and these kids are winning," Simmons said. "We are resuscitating to east side of Indianapolis."

The school only opened its doors two years ago - so they're still growing. Their next goal is to build a full-size gym for their students.

If you would like to be a part of their mission and Phalen Leadership Academy grow, click here.