Black males in Florida and Georgia are graduating from high school at lower rates than the national average and educators say they can't fix this problem alone.
According to the Schott Foundation for Public Education, around 60% of black male high schoolers both in Georgia and Florida don't make it to graduation.
One educator says 70% of all inmates are high school dropouts, and the solution starts at home.
As high school senior Jerrico Lee practices his sign language in class, he is a sign himself of all that is possible.
"It all comes down to how bad you wanna get out of your current situation," Lee says.
Lee was raised by his great-grandmother.
"I never knew my father, my mother was on drugs most of my life," says Lee. "I taught myself how to be a man."
Lee is driven and plans to go to college to play football, but men like him are getting harder to come by.
The Schott Foundation for Public Education says black men in Florida and Georgia are twice as likely not to graduate.
In the Sunshine state, 38% of black men pass high school, and 40% in the peach state.
These numbers are both below the national average of 47%.
Godby High School Counselor Darius Jones says, "We need to encourage our males more, we need to monitor their academics more."
Experts say parents need to step up, showing support both inside the home and inside the classroom.
Edward Tolliver from the FAMU College of Education says, "We've got to get our parents reengaged with the schools and not surrender our kids to the academic or educational system in order to get the job done."
The statistics may be working against them, but some students are working hard to buck that trend.
It's a trend that Lee could've followed but didn't.
He understands what his peers go through but he strives to be living proof that words on paper don't have to direct your life.
But not all the blame is placed on parents.
One official says some parents have to work two jobs to make ends meet, or are too busy to take part in school activities.
Even school resource officers can be blamed for being too tough, but excuses aside, educators agree these students simply need more positive influences in their lives.