CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- In today's struggling economy, even those with college degrees are often left searching for work. For those without a high school diploma, the door of opportunity is often shut before they can get their foot in it.
"He tells her all the time, 'look how hard it is on me because I quit school,'" Linda Totten said.
That lesson Linda Totten's son learned the hard way is now being taught to his daughter, a student at Capital High School in Charleston.
"They are starting to learn at this age that it's almost like a job," Totten said. "That's what I tell my grand-daughter when she goes to school, 'this is your job.'"
That job is made easier by the employees at local schools.
"They need their education and we need to work together to make sure that all students have that opportunity to graduate from high school," Michael Arbogast, the principal at South Charleston High School said.
Since 2008, graduation rates in West Virginia have risen almost nine percent, meaning nearly eight out of ten students now earn a diploma. The top reason is teachers pushing students to hit the books instead of hitting the road.
"Kanawha County schools took a very proactive approach in battling the dropout rate," Arbogast said.
They identify warning signs like poor grades and attendance, and adding a graduation coach to help those falling behind catch back up.
However, keeping students in school is only part of the battle. That's why South Charleston has also added vocational classes.
"They can earn their graduation credits academically as well as train for a job skill," Arbogast said.
They are making sure students are prepared once they step out the high school doors for the last time.