When one of his eighth grade students was murdered during a drug deal in 2012, Jonathan Johnson set out to re-imagine the purpose of school.

Aiming to become the first in his family to graduate college, Ricky Summers effectively closed a four year achievement gap by the time he saw Johnson. Surrounded by award-winning teachers and educated in one of the most celebrated charter school networks in the country, Summers was on track to overcome the odds set against him coming from Central City, New Orleans.

Until a bullet on a spring night overcame him during a drug deal gone bad.

At his funeral, a community member read the results of his state testing and Summers was on track to receive a TOPS Scholarship—full tuition to any state university in Louisiana.

In spite of all the support Summers had in the pursuit of college, none of it was enough to protect him from the effects of poverty that embattled his community. So it became Johnson’s mission to build a school that could beat the streets in the fight for students’ lives.

Through an opportunity launched by New Schools for New Orleans and 4.0 Schools in 2014, Johnson set out to build Rooted School. Grounded in a belief that financial freedom can have a rippling impact in dismantling the effects of poverty on a student’s life, Rooted aims to fast-track students like Ricky to the most in-demand and high-paying local industries—with or without a college degree.