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WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA9) -- Maya Angelou's death hit students and teachers at one DC school especially hard.

The Maya Angelou Public Charter School in Southeast focuses on helping low-income students who have failed to thrive in traditional schools.

Geraldine Bolden, 16, heard about the death of her heroine, the poet, actress and inspiration Maya Angelou, and immediately wrote her own poem to capture her feelings. The 11th grader already dreams of attending Harvard, Stanford or Barnard.

Maya Angelou Public Charter's been a refuge for her from traditional schools where she says she was always afraid. "Gang violence, and crime, and everything... Ducking and dodging," she says, because she could not go through certain neighborhoods controlled by gangs.

Maya Angelou's life was so full it took six autobiographies for her to tell it all. Raised in poverty in the Jim Crow south, raped at age 7, but somehow she harnessed that anguish to survive and thrive. She is an inspiration to many of the students at the school, some of whom have faced the same struggles.

Angelou visited her namesake school frequently.

The CEO remembers her regal bearing, that incredible voice, and how much she loved life. "I remember her dancing across the stage," said Heather Wathington. "And then she'd come out and sing. And she would speak to the kids. And she always had some charge, who they could be, what they needed to be."

Bolden says the death of this phenomenal woman will push them to work even harder. "I have something to live up to and I refuse to let it go. I will stretch out my life for Maya Angelou."

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