Choice Bus shows students consequences of dropping outPublished 5:23pm Thursday, October 24, 2013
By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor
The group of about 25 Thompson Sixth Grade Center students gasped as school Assistant Principal Shannon Rose pulled back a curtain to reveal an accurate replica of an Alabama Department of Corrections prison cell.
“Seventy-five percent of inmates never finished high school,” Rose said. “They all gave up on their education.”
From Oct. 23-25, the Mattie C. Stewart Foundation’s Choice Bus parked on the TSGC campus to give students a realistic look at possible consequences of dropping out of high school.
The choice buses are painted two different color schemes: One half is designed to look like a typical school bus and the other half is painted to look like a prison transport bus.
After entering the bus, the students watched a video featuring Alabama prisoners who shared regrets about their decisions to drop out of school. After the video, Rose revealed the inside of the prison transport half of the bus, which contained metal prison cell bunk beds and toilet.
“We show the kids, if they drop out of school, they have a high probability of ending up in a place like jail or prison,” Rose said before the last group of the day got on the bus on Oct. 24.
Rose said the message resonates especially with sixth-graders.
“I think this is the best age for this program. After that, I think they have decided which peer groups they are going to associate with.
“They seem to be pretty receptive to it,” Rose said. “I think it really speaks to some of them. They will say ‘I’m not doing the right thing. How can I get on the right track?’”
Choice Bus Program Manager Lynn Smelley said the Mattie C. Stewart Foundation’s three Choice Buses travel to about 20 states each year to help spread the program’s message.
“We aren’t teachers, and we don’t pretend to be teachers,” Smelley said, noting another Choice Bus was visiting a school in North Carolina on the same day. “We just want to help kids make good choices.”