Several local middle schools will host The Choice Bus sponsored by State Farm this week in a nationwide campaign to reduce high school dropouts.
The Choice Bus is one of three buses operated by the Mattie C. Stewart Foundation. The bus is customized with a replica prison cell designed to showcase a bitter reality: 75 percent of American inmates are high school dropouts.
When I first looked at the Mattie C. Stewart Foundation website, I was skeptical on the message The Choice Bus is delivering. Do we really want to tell students that not graduating is the first step toward a life sentence?
Lucille Ball, Peter Jennings, Dave Thomas, and many other highly successful people were high school dropouts. Many people who do not graduate go on to live normal, law-abiding lives.
Then I watched the video that the students see on the bus. Every 26 seconds someone drops out of high school. The reality is that not every one of those students can be a world-famous actor or enterprising restaurateur.
Students who do not graduate are six times more likely to commit crime and become incarcerated.
Visuals in the presentation may seem harsh at first, but emotional reactions may very well make the difference for some students. The video features inmate interviews, outlooks on career opportunities for graduates, and talks about salary outlooks for non-graduates.
The overall goal of the aptly named Choice Bus is to reinforce the idea that each student makes their own choices in life and ultimately steer themselves toward success or, at the other end of the spectrum, to prison.
The presentation ends with a tour of the built-in prison cell replica and students sign graduation pledge cards. Schools also have the option to present more in-depth interviews of inmates who talk frankly about the bad choices they made and how they lead to prison.
Over 1 million students have toured The Choice Bus.
The Mattie C. Stewart Foundation is a national non-profit organization dedicated to reducing the dropout rate. Learn more about The Choice Bus and the foundation on their website.