Students at Saluda Trail Middle School spent time on a bus on Tuesday. But it wasn’t just any bus. It’s half-classroom, half-prison cell, and it serves an important purpose, educating students about the importance of making good choices and staying in school.
“The Choice Bus,” operated by the Mattie C. Stewart Foundation and State Farm, rolls to school districts across the country, including Rock Hill.
“The Choice Bus is a dropout prevention tool we use to show the power of education, but also to show the consequences of dropping out of school,” said John Paul Taylor, a presenter on the bus.
In small groups, students at Saluda Trail boarded the bus and sat for a 20-minute presentation and video that showed the amount of money a person with a high school diploma can make in life, how much more money a person with a diploma will make versus a dropout and the fact that 75 percent of people who are incarcerated are high school dropouts.
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Then, the presenter pulled back a curtain and showed students the back of the bus, which is a replica of a typical prison cell.
“It’s always a shock when the cell is revealed,” Taylor said. “It’s very eye-opening.”
On the bus, the students learned that people could end up in prison if they didn’t stay in school, said eighth-grader Megan Mathis.
“We learned about making decisions and what can happen if you make bad decisions,” she said.
As the students walked around the replica prison cell, one muttered, “I’m never going here.”
Some of the presentation was “cool,” but some was “scary,” said eighth-grader Nick Massey, who wants to be an architect when he grows up.
“When they started talking to the inmates (in the video), it scared me to think about what can happen to me if I didn’t stay in school,” he said.
Presenter Anthony Williams, asked the students about their career aspirations. One said he wanted to go to culinary school, another wanted to be a teacher and another said she wanted to be a lawyer or a veterinarian.
“Just stay in school,” Williams said. “It’s the little things we do every day, the choices that we make,” that make a difference in what will happen in the future.