"What do you see yourself doing? Where do you see yourself? I've have people say to me, 'I'm not sure I even see myself alive,'" educational services coordinator Anana Scott said.
That's the reality for many of the students who dropped out of high school. In a small classroom under the guidance of Anana Scott they are working to rebuild their lives.
Forty percent of Oakland high school students drop out every year. Jovar Minor is one of them.
"I was skipping school with my friends so I decided to change," Minor said.
Minor has been in jail several times. Without a high school diploma, he quickly realized he was jeopardizing his future. Minor came to The East Oakland Youth Development Center to, like other students, prepare for his GED test.
Anana Scott, the educational services coordinator, is affectionately called Ms. Anana by students. She's constantly reminding them to stay focused.
"So now this time you can be conscious of what you are doing and say, 'OK, I won't be making that mistake again so let me sit down and get this right,'" Scott said.
She says more students than ever are coming to the center to work on their GED.
"I don't have a stable home so it's like, I want to build and make it a better life for, not only for myself, but my son too," student Shanae Rogers said.
The economy, drugs and violence in east Oakland have forced others to leave high school. Some have a hard time passing the exit exam because they were never academically prepared.
"They don't know what they're doing, yet they're being passed from grade to grade," Scott said. "Why is that?"
Daniel Rocha has met all of his requirements. A cap and gown are Ms. Anana's way of acknowledging his hard work.
"My whole life my parents, teachers, friends, told me I should have been somewhere else," Rocha said. "It's now or never."
The program has been successful. According to Ms. Anana, 75 percent of students who get their GED go on to a community college of some kind of vocational school.
Rocha wants to go to college to major in religious studies.
"They have to start seeing themselves as role models because whether they want to believe it or not they are being watched by other people," Scott said.