Kamary Adams Stokes has had a rocky road to his senior year of high school. He's now 20.

Adams Stokes, who lives in Hyde Park, was expelled from Charles Sumner Elementary School in Roslindale for fighting. He went to the McKinley, a Boston school for students with special needs, then to an alternative school in Walpole, then back to the McKinley for high school, where he eventually dropped out in October 2017.

While the data from the 2017-2018 school year isn't yet available, nearly 700 students dropped out of Boston Public Schools during the 2016-2017 school year, according to the most recent data from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Adam Stokes said his tipping point for dropping out was was being taught addition — again — when he was in the 10th grade.

"You've got kids throwing temper tantrums, breaking things, fighting every day, all this gang-related stuff," Adams Stokes said. "No one wants to be around that all day."

But after Adams Stokes dropped out, he finally had the opportunity to go to a school that worked for him. He became one of about 330 students who re-enrolled in Boston Public Schools during 2017-2018 school year after meeting with staff from the district’s Re-Engagement Center. They knock on doors and try to persuade dropouts to re-enter school.

According to Emmanuel Allen, director of the Re-Engagement Center, staff members try to speak to students in terms they'll understand about coming back to school. For many kids, that conversation revolves around how little money they’ll make in their lifetimes without a high school diploma.

"They want to be independent. They want to be in control of their life," Allen said. "What I didn't realize, which a lot of times they’re not realizing, is that you actually need to go to school to get told what to do, so you can actually be independent."

Allen speaks from experience. He dropped out of the Jeremiah Burke High School in Dorchester in the 1990s. He was working at a chain drugstore when he realized he couldn’t make it without a diploma.

"I was working all these hours. I got my check. I'd buy, like, an outfit, get a haircut and do a couple other things, and I was broke, and it just kept happening from week to week to week to week," he said.

Allen went back to high school, then on to college and a masters degree. He said sometimes schools take the wrong approach to bringing back dropouts, because they don’t understand what really motivates them.

"Everyone does not understand that school is important or even relevant, and that's the challenge," said Allen. "The second you walk out of school into this community, it's invisible. No one cares, and no one's going to ask you about it."

Veronique Dupere, a professor at the University of Montreal who researches high school dropouts, said the district's door-knocking campaign is a good idea.

"You really have to go and find those kids and really make efforts to actually tailor what you are doing to their needs," she said. "Putting forward ... what they might gain from reengaging in school is really important."

Dupere said no one-size-fits-all approach to bringing students back to school works. "The needs of these young people are totally different. If we focus only on learning problems or school failure, we're going to miss a whole lot of kids who drop out for different reasons," she said.

Once dropouts re-enroll in school, Dupere said, districts need follow up to make sure they graduate. In Boston, only about 30 percent of students who re-enroll actually get their diplomas within four years, according to the Re-Engagement Center.

Adams Stokes re-enrolled in school at West Roxbury Academy last spring. He said his age draws negative comments from some students, but he doesn't let it bother him.

"I just let them talk," he said. "It's like, you don't know my story."

Since starting at West Roxbury last year, Adams Stokes said he has not missed a day of school and is on track to graduate in June. He said he re-enrolled to serve as a model for his son Amere, who was born while he was out of school and working at a supermarket.

"I have a 1-year-old child that I have to succeed for, and he's a big motivation for me," he said. "I'm not going to give up on that, because ... it's not the type of road I want to show my son."