Common knows a thing or two about wrestling with tough subjects.  

In his 25-plus years as a Grammy- and Oscar-winning rapper, actor, advocate, and activist, the Chicago native has gone up against racial injustice, social inequality, and poverty with his powerful words and performances.  

But recently, he has taken an active role in another tough battle: education reform.

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Christine Bischoff grew up in a small southern West Virginia coal town.

"Everyone's dad was a coal miner, and very few people were educated," Bischoff says. It was the type of place where opportunities were few and far between.

There were about six career choices in the whole town.

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Every day, hundreds of kids in Mexico wake up extra early to cross the border and attend school in the U.S.

It's an unusual commute with border traffic, security checks, and metal detectors all before your first class, but parents jump at the opportunity to have their kids educated in the United States. And for the most part, the schools are happy to have them.

The border in El Paso, Texas. All images via XQ Super School Project.

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Marcus Bullock spent his most formative years in a prison.

He was 15 when he was convicted and served eight years — a shockingly common experience. Of the millions of people incarcerated in the United States, about 70,000 of them are juveniles.

Marcus, though, was determined to become more than just a statistic.

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