It was never Piscal’s dream to simply open a school; this was a place, he vowed early on, that would offer the most disadvantaged kids a route to college and a bright future. There are reminders of that mission everywhere you go at View Park Prep. Pennants from Ivy League and other top schools adorn a wall on the second floor of the high school. And, in case there is any doubt, posters spell out what is expected: “All students will attend and compete academically at the top 100 colleges and universities in the nation.”

These are not empty words, insists Brian Taylor, the principal of the middle school. “I think that is where it begins, knowing we have high expectations,” says Taylor, a former pro basketball player whom Piscal lured to View Park Prep from Harvard-Westlake in 2002. “We also have a belief that our kids are gifted, and it’s for us to bring those gifts out.” Students at all levels are pushed hard, with teachers tasked with gearing lessons to the skills of the top-performing kids. Students who fall behind are given an abundance of extra help but are still expected to bear down and keep up.

It’s a philosophy that can be jarring for new students. “They never tried, they never believed, nobody ever pushed them,” says Piscal. “Nobody ever believed in them. We just kept pushing and pushing.”

Piscal, too, is pushing forward. Not just satisfied with the three View Park Prep campuses, he has plans to open up many more schools, all with the purpose of providing a good education to kids who have been ignored in the past. Whatever the odds, Taylor suggests that it’s unwise to bet against Piscal. “It would be different if he talked a lot and didn’t do anything. But he’s a doer,” says Taylor. “He talks, but he also acts.”