Students of School of Discovery file into the Choice Bus which has a replica of a jail cell to show them the harsh realities of dropping out of school. The bus travels around the nation in an effort to lower the school drop out rate. --Ashley Johnson
Students of School of Discovery file into the Choice Bus which has a replica of a jail cell to show them the harsh realities of dropping out of school. The bus travels around the nation in an effort to lower the school drop out rate. -- Ashley Johnson

Students learn choices matter

Published 7:18pm Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Students from School of Discovery got an exclusive peek at the inside of a jail cell on Tuesday, but the students were not there because they were in trouble with the law.

These students were allowed to see what the grim consequences of dropping out of school looked like and hanging out with the wrong crowd as part of a program to reduce the drop out rate around the nation by the Mattie C. Stewart Foundation.

The Choice Bus, the experimental learning tool for the foundation, sat in the school parking lot as students from each class filed inside. The bus is split in half — one half a replica of a jail cell and the other a classroom to learn about decision-making.

Students sat and listened to the statistics — 75 percent of prisoners are high school dropouts and over a lifetime, college graduates will earn at least $1 million more than those who drop out of school. Then a curtain was opened to the other side of the bus, the jail cell with mannequins wrapped in blankets sleeping on bunk beds with just one urinal.

Lynn Smelley, the program manager who led the SOD students through the bus asked them to imagine what it would be like to have no privacy going to the bathroom, going in front of three to four people at all times.

SOD assistant principal Timothy Strong said that is when he noticed some of his students “Get wide-eyed and have a wow moment.”

“I have heard some of the students commenting that this has opened their eyes and they see that the choices that they make at this age will have an impact and a direct effect on their future so they need to make the right choices,” Strong said as he supervised the classes going in and out of the bus and then sign a pledge to stay in school. “Some of them are talking about stepping back and finding new friends because some of the people that they are hanging with, they see they are going in the wrong direction.”

Strong said he thinks the bus will have a, “lasting impression on his students.”

As Smelley gave his presentation, he told the students about a 14-year-old girl who wound up in jail after associating with the wrong crowd. He also took time to ask the students what their career and college plans were. For the athletes he asked them about their back up plan. Smelley said he was impressed with the School of Discovery students and that they were, “very responsive, and you can tell that at this school they are already working with them on careers.”

Smelley explained that he sees lights bulbs go off for students about decision making nearly every presentation he does — which is a lot considering the Choice Bus has traveled to 28 states and seen more than 1 million students since its inception in 2008.

“This is about the choices they make in their life, it’s the friends they hang out with, studying the decisions they make day in and day out,” Smelley said.

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