Choice Bus Intended to Make Young People Think

Each year more than 1.2 million high school students drop out of school. The lost revenues and additional social services tied to this is estimated at $329 billion.

A national campaign to try to change that is visiting east Mississippi to try to make young people think.

One by one, students from Meridian High filed onto the Choice Bus Monday, for what organizers say is a life changing experience.

Sponsored by the non-profit Mattie C. Stewart Foundation and State Farm Insurance, the national effort has one mission in mind: to help students make good choices, especially when it comes to staying in school.

"It is so critical that we get to these kids at an early age, because they're in a developmental stage in their life," said Jeffery Wilson, State Farm agent.

Divided into two sessions, one part of the bus is for a video presentation that features testimonials from people who have made poor choices and the consequences they face. The other is what some call an all-too-real experience.

The jail cell in the back of the bus highlights where bad choices can land individuals. However, organizers say it's one small component in the grand scheme of things.

"The cell is solely a backdrop, saying this is the possible consequences if you make the wrong choices," said Lynn Smelley, Choice Bus coordinator.

Since the start of the program almost five years ago, more than 1,250,000 students from 17 states have toured the Choice Bus. In all the visits organizers say students seem most impressed by the facts they learn.

"As far as that goes, somebody that stays in school they can make a million dollars over the course of a lifetime, compared to someone who has dropped out of school. It's just that simple.'

"Sometimes when it's presented by a different group, they are more open to the information," said Holli Cobb, counselor at Meridian High School.

After the presentation, each students is asked to sign a pledge card to stay in school.

Next up for the Choice Bus is a stop at Enterprise High School Tuesday, followed by a stop at Noxubee High in Macon Thursday.


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