LUMBERTON, NC (WBTW) – Robeson County students take a break from the classroom to learn about the importance of obtaining an education for a successful future. The Mattie C. Stewart Foundation brings an experience-based learning tool, ‘The Choice Bus’ to three schools in the county this week starting on Tuesday through Thursday.
Mattie C. Stewart Foundation studies show 75% of prison inmates are high school dropouts, and more than 80% of prison inmates are functionally illiterate. Studies also show dropouts are six times more likely than high school graduates to commit crimes and become incarcerated.
‘The Choice Bus’ is designed to show students the power of education and likely consequences of dropping out of school. Seventh and eighth graders pile on a school bus that’s been partially turned into a replica of a jail cell to learn the importance of staying in school.
Students get a glimpse of what happens to 8 out of the 10 dropout students who end up making the wrong choices and eventually end up behind bars.
Recent statistics from Communities in Schools of North Carolina show Public Schools of Robeson County reportable crimes last year increased from 16.54% to 17.92%, while suspension rates also jumped from 48.74% to 50.97%. Another study shows Robeson County has 23% percent who dropped out of school which is the third-most compared to other counties in the state.
Robeson County school officials say at least 80% of their students who decide to drop out before completing a high school degree end up in prison at some point in their life.
“We know there is a direct correlation between dropping out and the possibility of incarceration,” Dencie Lambdin, Robeson County Executive Director of Communities In Schools of North Carolina said.
The bus is converted into a half-prison cell and a half-classroom, visually portraying two different life perspectives based on the choice of pursuing an education. The mission is to engage conversation with students on the importance of completing an education whether it be at a high school, two-year technical school, or a four-year college.
“Just to be able to show students the consequences… I think sometimes students don’t understand the choices they make today can impact the future,” Kim White, the Mattie C. Stewart Foundation presenter said.
“A lot of times when they hit the age of 16 they don’t see the importance of a high school diploma. They see other job opportunities, lower-paying areas of our business world,” Lambdin said as two life perspectives lay in front of Magnolia Elementary students on Tuesday. While both spectrums of the bus depend on decisions to pursue an education, one leads to jobs, money, and success. The other side leads to gray walls, a single bunk bed, and a metal toilet.
Communities In Schools of North Carolina and State Farm have partnered with the Mattie C. Stewart Choice Bus tour this week. The bus has visited 27 states and educated more than two million students.