An odd bus drove up to several Alice school campuses and loaded up students Tuesday and Wednesday with a particular message. The bus, half yellow and half white, was an important learning tool with seats facing an 8 by 8 prison cell with a steel toilet and two steel beds.
The Choice Bus, sponsored by StateFarm, is designed to show adolescents the importance of education and the consequences they may face if they choose to drop out of school.
“The Choice Bus just reiterates the things adults have been telling them forever,” said Chet Pennock, lead presenter. “When they see the bus and the inmates on the film, things seem to get clearer for their young minds. Rest assure while they won't remember lectures, they'll remember The Choice Bus.”
Alice students loaded the two-toned bus and watched a short film where prison inmates gave their testimonies. On the film, 19-year-old Monique talks about how she was that girl on the right path who hung around with the wrong crowd, joined a gang and ended up in prison after a fight over a boy.
Monique and other inmates all had one thing in common – the regret of not finishing school.
Presenter Kim White and the students talked about how every decision affects their future, some good others not so good. She expressed how important an education is for their futures.
According to the film, 75 percent of prison inmates never finished high school.
White allowed the students to tour the prison cell that depicted the uncomfortable living conditions inmates face. As students exited the bus, they received a pledge card to make a choice to finish school.
The Choice Bus was created through the Mattie C. Stewart Foundation (MCSF) to help educators and others combat the dropout rate. The bus travels from school to school throughout the United States.
“The goal is not to scare students to stay in school, but to simply let them hear from people who learned the consequences of dropping out of school the hard way,” said Dr. Stewart in a press release.
Dr. Stewart's commitment to reducing school dropout rates has captured national acclaim by making a difference in the lives of thousands of youth in 50 states. The Choice Bus was unveiled in September 2008, has already impacted more than 2 million students in 24 states.