OKLAHOMA CITY - A local training program is preparing new teachers specifically for the Oklahoma City Public School District.
 
The Urban Teacher Preparation Academy (UTPA) is a program offered at three local institutions, the University of Central Oklahoma, University of Oklahoma and Mid-American Christian University.
 
The program has been up and running for about a decade and is the result of a partnership with the local institutions, Oklahoma City Public Schools and the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools.
 
Together, UTPA has helped train 100 certified teacher candidates. One of those is Katie Leenders. She just accepted a position at Southeast High School.
 
Principal of Southeast Mylissa Hall said her school had a last minute need and Leenders stepped in. 
 
"Because of the foundation she was given through the UTPA program, I believe that's why she was able to just take it in stride," said Hall. 
 
The goal of the program is to prepare teachers to better serve the needs of students in urban environments, specifically OKCPS.
 
 "[It] provides these new teachers with mentorship, with professional development and a support staff that wraps around these teachers to make sure they are successful," said president and CEO of the Foundation for OKCPS Mary Mélon.
 
"I will say that with UTPA, you got placed in an OKCPS classroom," said Leenders. "So I think I was prepared for the diversity of OKCPS."
 
This gives principals the confidence that these students can become their teachers. 
 
"They know our population," said Hall "She's already acclimated, and she has a passion for Oklahoma City Schools. We want passion because that's what's going to get across to our kids."
 
The Foundation for OKCPS said this program also helps the district retain teachers and in return teachers find positions.
 
The program does offer scholarship and stipend opportunities for those interested in the program.