LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — By the year 2020, KIPP LA Schools hopes to expand to 20 campuses similar to that of the highest-ranking charter school in the LAUSD, KIPP Empower Academy.

On Wednesday, students at the tuition-free, college-preparatory school celebrated their new facility on Figueroa Street in the heart of South Los Angeles.

“I was told that good things did not come out of my neighborhood, and I’ve been trying to prove them wrong my whole life,” said Sacramento mayor and former NBA player Kevin Johnson, who visited the campus.

The district says the school, part of the national KIPP network, is ranked highest in the district and 10th in the state.

“To myself, growing up in an inner-city school, we didn’t have that. We didn’t have like our rooms named after colleges or what you were going to graduate. It’s just that we came to school,” Melody Moore, a parent, told KCAL9’s Serene Branson.

Moore was hired as a school employee four years ago after being laid off.

“I want to be a college professor to teach kids in college,” said Moore’s daughter, Ashandi Moten.

At the school, the focus is on empowering students’ minds, body and spirit.

Rooms are named after the teacher’s college, and scholars as they’re called are categorized not by grade but by college-graduation date.

School leaders say, on average, less than 5 percent of South L.A. students finish college.

But at KIPP, “over 75 percent of our alumni are persisting in college right now, and we’re looking to see that number grow as we continue to expand,” said Neela Parasnis, a school leader.

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