This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Alan Jacobs dropped out of Kensington High School at 16 and soon found himself locked up on a gun charge.
His mom, Emma Johnson, felt that her son had completely lost control of his life.
"He wanted to stand on the corner and make fast money," said Johnson. "We talked to him and we talked to him, and he was just headstrong. He wanted the streets."
After a lot of pressure from his mom, Jacobs agreed to try out YouthBuild Philly Charter School, a program that works exclusively with 18- to 20-year-old dropouts.
In addition to undertaking an accelerated academic program, students choose to focus on one of three trades: construction, health care, or business administration.
On Friday, 122 students earned diplomas in an emotional ceremony at North Philadelphia’s Zion Baptist Church.
Seeing her son in cap and gown floored Johnson. At age 20, her son now has skills to become a contractor.
"I did convince him," she said. "I did. Look where we are today."