The Choice Bus to visit Central School

Staff Writer

The Delta Sigma Theta Sorority is sponsoring The Choice Bus, a part of the Mattie C. Stewart Foundation, to come to Central School Tuesday, Sept. 19, and the South Campus Wednesday, Sept. 20,, to do a presentation for the students. Tours will be taking place until 2 p.m. each day.

The Mattie C. Stewart Foundation was created to help educators, community leaders and other interested groups reduce the dropout rate and increase the graduation rate through the creation of relevant and effective tools and resources. The foundation has corporate partners, State Farm and Pepsi.

"The Choice Bus will be open to fifth grade students at Central School, Tuesday, Sept. 19," Chair of the Educational Development Committee of DSTS, Inc,. Ungenette Brantley said. "Wednesday, Sept. 20, will be for the sixth grade students to tour the bus."

Brantley said having the bus at the West Point High School campuses last year was successful, but they wanted to reach younger students with the second visit.

"We really want to encourage children to stay on the right path," Brantley said. "There are so many things young people are exposed to that tells them it's cool to be in trouble with the law. We hope to give them something to think about after touring the Choice Bus."

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., take a great deal of pride in its service to the community, especially in working with the West Point Consolidated School District with projects to encourage students to stay in school.

According to the Mattie C. Stewart Foundation website, the Choice Bus is an experience-based learning tool designed to show young people the power of education, as well as the likely consequences of choosing to drop out of school. It contains a full scale replica of a prison cell which is hidden behind a curtain and flat screen television. Upon entering the bus, a four-minute movie will quiz the audience on the earning potential of a dropout versus a high-school and college graduate. The movie also features several powerful testimonials from people who regret dropping out - prison inmates. When the movie is finished, the cell is revealed demonstrating the stark reality experienced by many dropouts. Students are then invited into the prison cell to briefly experience the uncomfortable living conditions. As students exit the bus, they receive a pledge card and are asked to make a commitment to finish school and make good choices. The Choice Bus experience is approximately twenty minutes long and is designed for grades 6-10.

"The Choice Bus tries to target the middle school age kids, before they get to the age where they think they know everything,"Brantley said. "That is why we made the decision to bring the Choice Bus to Central School this year. Parents are welcome to come and see what the Choice Bus is all about. "

Brantley said the Choice Bus can show them the positive side of pursuing an education and also the negative consequences of dropping out of school.

"My hope is these students will see the importance of education," Brantley said. "The Delta Sigma Theta Sorority is always trying to support children in reaching their academic goals. Education is the key to being successful. We want to help them understand they need a good education regardless of what sort of employment they want. The better educated you are they more opportunities life will give you."

Brantley said many students who took the Choice Bus tour at West Point High School were shocked to see the size of a jail cell. She said if the tour reaches one or two students, impresses upon then the need for education, the Delta's will have accomplished what they set out to do by bringing the Choice Bus to Central.

"They couldn't imagine being in a room that small with a stranger," Brantley said. "Then the reality of a toilet that is out in the open in the cell, hits them hard. There is nothing cool about losing your freedom and going to jail. If young people make the wring choices, there are consequences. If they make the right choices to stay in school, graduate, go on to community college or a university, they can expect a bright future. The choice is up to them."