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Southland College Prep Charter High School Has Years Of 100% College Acceptance And Student Excellence -- What's Their Secret?

RICHTON PARK, Ill. (CBS) -- A south suburban school boasts about its very specific mission – "to defy expectations for our predominantly African American community."

And boy, do they succeed. We're talking merit scholars, national speech winners, and multiple Ivy-Leaguers.

CBS 2's Lauren Victory asked Wednesday, what is Southland College Prep's secret?

It's hard to believe the ring-a-ding of the school bell and the subsequent patter of footsteps would be such a foreign sound. But after 18 months of remote or staggered hybrid learning, students from every grade at Southland College Prep Charter High School, at 4601 Sauk Trail in Richton Park, are finally filling the hallways again.

"It is so good to be back," said Hailey Love, a junior. She's enjoying seeing her friends and interacting with her teachers without the threat of technical glitches.

In-person instead of virtual learning will undoubtedly benefit the charter school – though it's impossible to beat the school's own record: 100 percent college acceptance for the Class of 2021, just as it's been for the past eight years.

Part of this school's secret sauce? Meeting with seniors one-one-one in the summer and hiring multiple counselors for the job.

"Not to put a dig - but if you look at how many staff we assign to athletics in comparison to what we assign to counseling and family support and guidance counseling and college counseling, there's a clear difference," said Robert Lane, Director of College Admissions.

Another thing that sets Southland apart? Alumni involvement. For example, this year's new digital media technology teacher, Malik Bibbie, is a 2015 graduate.

"They definitely open up to me. They trust me," said Bibbie. "They want to learn more about the history of Southland in general."

You'll also find a heavy emphasis on performance at Southland, where 75 percent of students participate in some sort of fine arts.

Everyone focuses on writing.

"If you think about it, the ability to speak well and to write well and to understand the written word really defines us as educated people," said Dr. Blondean Davis, the charter's chief executive officer.

Davis declined to comment on how other schools could improve, because she says every school has its nuances.

CBS 2 asked her to simplify the reasons behind Southland's success. She answered: "I think the teachers in this school recognize what true excellence is. To me, it's something very tangible – and it either is or is not. We simply cannot accept mediocrity."

Not to worry – the hardworking kids make time for fun too. Love and senior Blaze Atwood busted out some moves when the bell rang and the between periods warning music began to play in the middle of our interview.

You don't need to be the cream of the crop to get into Southland. Enrollment is not selective and is done through a lottery system – so anyone with the luck of the draw can attend.

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