Sgt. 1st Class Peter Gutierrez

There are events in life, Sgt. 1st Class Peter Gutierrez believes, that change where one is going.

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Sgt. FC Peter Gutierrez is an instructor at Sunburst Youth Academy CBS News

For Gutierrez, 33, that event was the death of his brother, who he said was killed in the streets.

"Because of that, and having to deal with that, and the way it was done, I knew I had to make a change," he said.

That change led him to seven years of active duty in the military, and then to the National Guard. He's now an instructor at Sunburst Youth Academy, an academic boot camp run by the National Guard. There are 35 such programs across the country, the product of a 1993 Congressional mandate to tackle the country's high school dropout crisis. CBS News has been following cadets in his current class throughout their time in the program.

"I see a lot of myself within these kids, the trials they've been through themselves," he said of the high school dropouts-turned-cadets he works with in the program.

"When I'm out there making a change, and helping them fix their lives now, that helps me everyday sleep better at night, knowing that I'm making a difference."