Mark Wahlberg's quest to keep kids in school

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - AUGUST 07: Actor Mark Wahlberg arrives at the 2011 Teen Choice Awards held at the Gibson Amphitheatre on August 7, 2011 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images) Jason Merritt

Almost one third of American high school students never graduate, and Mark Wahlberg wants to do something about it. The Oscar-nominated actor is a big supporter of Boys & Girls Clubs, which are helping kids stay in school.

At 14, Manny Brandao considers himself a pretty good musician. Manny plays the bass and drums, but when he grows up he wants to be a music producer.

And at the Boys & Girls Club in Dorchester, Mass., he's got the tools to make it happen. "I've been able to record people with their talents in singing or playing an instrument," he told correspondent Michelle Miller.

A new state-of-the-art music studio, with synthesizers and electronic instruments and a sound booth, is getting a lot of buzz; other hopeful musicians are flocking there to join in.

"What will this do for all the kids out there who are interested in what you're into?" Miller asked Manny.

"It would keep them off the streets," he replied. "Those who like to rap or sing can come here and do it, you know."

"When I was a kid, I used to play here every single day," actor/producer and former rapper Mark Wahlberg told Miller.

Wahlberg grew up right around the corner. "This was a safe haven. There was a lot of trouble on the street. And of course, I still ended up finding that trouble," he said.

Before starring in roles in films such as "The Fighter" and "The Departed," the Oscar-nominated star dropped out of school at 13. He experimented with drugs, joined a gang, and by 16, was in jail. He wants these kids to learn from his mistakes.

"I can't leave where I came from and just forget about it like it never happened, knowing how many kids still deal with and are faced with the same kind of struggles," Wahlberg explained.

Every year, 1.3 million students drop out of high school. That's 7,200 kids every day. Their number one reason: needing to find a job to help support their family.

"Was there ever a point where you questioned whether or not you'd graduate?" Miller asked Marissa Sneed.

"Yes, my junior year was very difficult," she said.

Distracted by negative influences, Marissa was failing. At the club, she got mentors, and tutors. That support made all the difference.

"I did not have to repeat classes or summer school. It was amazing," she said.

Those are the results Wahlberg is looking for. That's why he's teamed up with Taco Bell to launch "Graduate to Go," a program aimed at providing teens real life experiences and on the job training in a host of careers.

A new study reports 81 percent of high school dropouts say that if they had been introduced to career paths early on, they would have stuck it out.

"All it takes it one positive influence," Aisling Kerr, who struggled to find her place in school, told Miller.

Now she dreams big. "I'm applying to Boston College, Notre Dame, Fordham, Bentley," Aisling said.

Those are the dreams Wahlberg is seeding. "These kids are so focused, so smart, so determined. It's like all they need is an opportunity. And then forget it, get out of their way. Because they're hungry, you know? They're really hungry," Wahlberg said.

Musician Manny Brandao is eating it up.

"You can live out your artistic fantasies. And explore your creativity, both as a recording artist, as a producer, as an engineer," Wahlberg encouraged Manny. "Keep it up kid. You are doing a great thing."

  • Michelle Miller

    Michelle Miller is an award-winning CBS News correspondent based in New York, reporting for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. Her work regularly appears on the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley", "CBS This Morning" and "CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood". She joined CBS News in 2004.

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