UNDATED (CBS) -- Millions of Americans fall through the cracks of the education system and reach adulthood without the basic skills for entering the work force. In Washington DC alone, one out three adults cannot read a newspaper or fill out a job application. A non-profit organization is working to teach not only reading, writing and math, but hope.
It's not a typical rehearsal for a high school graduation. But Darnetta Hollis has waited for this day since she put her education on hold as a teenage mom. She says, "Kinda just life's curve balls just came into play and I had to provide for my family."
Now she and her classmates are getting their GEDs, the equivalent of a high school diploma. Academy of Hope, a non-profit school for adult learners, made it possible.
Students come from lives full of setbacks including domestic violence, homelessness, depression and physical and mental disabilities.
The Academy of Hope says Washington DC's 40% high school dropout rate leaves thousands of young people without the skills to enter the workforce. The Academy is proud that some 60% of its graduates get jobs or go on to college or vocational school.
The school takes on 500 students a year. Students spend an average of two years in reading, writing and math classes preparing for the test. But the academy's teachers and volunteers say perhaps the most important skill they teach is hope.
Accomplishments that go beyond diplomas; these students already have already learned about life outside the classroom. Hollis says, "I now consider my mistakes and failures my teachers."
Hollis is now headed to the DC community college and wants to become a paralegal, showing her young family the importance of an education.
Academy of Hope is funded by grants from foundations and local government as well as donations from companies and individuals. Many of the teachers who work there are volunteers.