Cadet Adjekai Stewart

"I want to be able to fail and feel okay" 00:48

Adjekai Stewart describes the way she used to be as pretty lazy.

Adjekai Stewart is a cadet at Sunburst Youth Academy CBS News

She didn't like going to her California high school. She said she allowed issues with self confidence, drugs and alcohol to take over her life.

"I just began to give up. I lost confidence and drive to keep forward," she said. "And I didn't allow the people around me who were positive to help me."

Stewart, 17, is now a cadet at Sunburst Youth Academy. Run by the National Guard, it's one of 35 such academic boot camps that dot the U.S., the product of a 1993 Congressional mandate to tackle the country's high school dropout crisis. CBS News has been following Stewart and other cadets throughout their time in the program.

"The one thing I want to come out of this program is I want to be able to fail and feel okay," she said. "When I would fail, I would make the worst decisions. And that is what I really want to gain -- that failure is the true measure of success."