At Washington Jesuit Academy, the 12-hour day starts early and the lessons are more than just reading math.
A trip to the composting bin, for example, becomes a greater lesson in teamwork. Eighth grader Desean Bonner says the long days are fine with him.
"The 12 hour days, you don't even realize the 12 hour day flies by fast because I believe it's because your mind is stimulated," he said.
At the all-boys middle school in northeast D.C., teachers have 11 months a school year to improve reading levels and prepare students for competitive high school.
They're led by founder and president Bill Whitaker.
"So much of what we see in Washington D.C. is youth not being successful because they just haven't channeled their spark of excitement for school into a bombfire," Whitaker said.
Many of the students come from economically struggling families desperate to provide a better education - and by extension - a better future.
The young men learn not only the value of an education but also hard work.
Once inspired, the students are accepted into the top-rated high schools of their choice. And they're ready to meet new challenges.