Earning a living in San Diego is hard enough, but thousands of people who live in the county are trying to do it without a high school degree.
But there’s a free local program putting them on the fast track to higher-paying jobs.
For Lydia Soto, being inside its classroom is a second chance.
"When I was a younger kid, I used to sit in the back,” Soto said.
These days, she sits up front - asking questions, getting answers, and setting the standard.
Her ‘A’ paper on women’s rights in Pakistan is pinned to the wall at the San Diego continuing education classroom.
Her success is new.
Because Soto dropped out of San Diego High School about 30 years ago.
“At a young age, I had gotten pregnant and I needed to work,” Soto said.
But Soto could never earn more than minimum wage - because she didn't have that high school diploma.
“I was really frustrated and I knew in my heart what I needed to do. I needed to come back to school,” Soto said.
And here she is - in the midst of an accelerated high school program that condenses each class she missed into six weeks.
The program is free. Students missing fewer than three high school class credits can complete their education within six weeks.
Soto be here until she makes up enough credits to get her diploma.
“Hopefully go to City or Mesa, and then hopefully transfer to Cal State San Marcos,” she said.
Where she'd also sit front and center.
“I know that if you sit in the front, you get more information, you can ask the teacher questions, right off hand,” she said.
And sooner then later - a hand will reach back to her - holding a bachelor's degree, decades in the making.
“You're never too old,” Soto said, “to continue to learn.”