Cadet Marissa Stowe

"It's helping me become a better person" 00:43

Marissa Stowe can pinpoint when her education began going downhill.

Marissa Stowe is a cadet at Sunburst Youth Academy CBS News

It was at her Los Angeles-area middle school, she said. That's when the drugs started, a habit that would follow her into high school.

"I was really lazy, disrespectful to my mom," she said. "I did drugs. I ditched school."

Stowe, 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 Stowe and other cadets throughout their time in the program.

"I hope to gain enough discipline to choose the harder right, versus the easier wrong," she said. "I was in doubt. I had really come here just to get credits, but it's helping me become a better person. I'm more positive here, happy."