Choice Bus shows consequences of dropping out of school

Published 12:35 pm Wednesday, February 13, 2019

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – For students who drop out of school before obtaining their diplomas, the statistics paint a fairly bleak picture, Mattie C. Stewart Foundation employee Anthony Williams told students at Alabaster’s Thompson Sixth Grade Center on the morning of Feb. 13.

“Seventy-five percent of the people who are in prison did not graduate from high school,” Williams said. “The people you call your friends, do they make your grades go up or go down? Do they help you pay attention, or do they distract you? Do they encourage you to make good decisions or negative decisions?

“Make sure you are surrounding yourselves with people who are going to help you make good decisions, people who are going to help you set dreams,” Williams said.

The Mattie C. Stewart Foundation brought its Choice Bus to TSGC from Feb. 11-13 to give the school’s students a look at what often awaits those who drop 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, Williams revealed the inside of the prison transport half of the bus, which contained metal prison cell bunk beds and toilet.

Following the bus presentation, the students received a card encouraging them to write out the plans they have for their lives, and to write out a pledge to achieve those goals.

Williams said the presentation isn’t meant to cultivate fear among the students, but to show them, statistically, what will likely happen if they don’t obtain their high school diplomas. He told the students a high school graduate earns, on average, $27,000 a year, and said a person who completes the next step after high school, such as college, a trade school or military enlistment, earns an average of $1 million more over a lifetime than a high school dropout.

“We want to show them, in 25 minutes, the purpose of school and how it ties into their choices and their future,” Williams said. “Kids in this age range are always eager to talk about their future, and we want them to know that the ways of the world can extinguish those dreams if they make bad choices. The focus of this program is to let them know they are in charge of their lives.”