NEWBERRY — Every 26 seconds a student drops out of school. Eight out of 10 high school dropouts end up in prison. Did you know that a college graduate will earn $1 million more in his or her lifetime than a high school dropout?
These facts and more are some that presenters from The Choice Bus shared with students at Whitmire Community and Newberry Middle Schools on Friday.
The bus is one of six tools created by The Mattie C. Steward Foundation, which partners with State Farm to help reduce the dropout rate in the United States. Since 2008, The Choice Bus has visited more than two million students in 20 states.
A grant by State Farm provides The Choice Bus the opportunity to visit schools, along with Learn2Earn and the InsideOut Toolkit. The toolkit contains a teacher’s guide, a stay in school pledge card, and a documentary that exposes the real story of lasting effects of dropping out of school, told by those who live with the consequences every day — prison inmates.
Kelli Farmer, principal of Newberry Middle, said The Choice Bus was brought to their school because of her good friendship with Dr. Cynthia Pitts, with The Choice Bus.
The entire sixth grade class was exposed Friday to The Choice Bus.
Farmer was thrilled that students at NMS were able to hear from The Choice Bus presenters about their potential if they make good choices.
“The bottom line is that middle school aged children do not understand the choice they make have long-term consequences,” Farmer said. “Everything involves choices and consequences from those choices, whether good or bad.”
Eryka Perry, one of the presenters on The Choice Bus said her job was to simply inform the students about the power of an education and the importance of making good choices.
The seats on the bus were turned backwards so that once students were seated, they could watch a five minute video which went along with the documentary they were shown in their classrooms.
Several prison inmates of various ages were represented in the video, warning students that even simple choices they make now in middle school could impact their lives forever.
Following the video, the students were able to walk through a mock prison cell, which had been designed at the back of the bus.
The presenters explained that statistics showed that 75 percent of prison inmates were high school dropouts and just by making a few wrong choices at an early age could have lifelong consequences.
The presentation ended with presenters Perry and Charmaine Brown informing students of their options after finishing high school, whether they be trade school, a four year college/university, community college, etc.
Questions that Brown and Perry said they have come across from students have included inquiries about the differences between trade schools, community colleges and universities.
Perry said her favorite experience came from a young boy at another school they had visited who had walked through the mock jail cell, asking her “What if this were me?”
Two hours after visiting the bus, Perry said the young boy came back to her, having planned out his future, wanting to be an artist. In just two short hours, he had made goals for his future, Perry said, which makes her job as a presenter worthwhile.
“We’ve got such great kids here,” Farmer said. “We just want them to understand the potential they have so that the choices they make will help them decide if they’ve reached their potential.”