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Students have ‘choice’|Choice Bus sends strong message

By By Lisa Tindell
news editor

Nineteen-year-old Monique is suffering in prison because of one “idiot mistake” she made at the young age of 16. She now sits in Alabama’s Julia Tutwiler Prison with 75 percent of the other prison inmates there who have one thing in common – they dropped out of high school.
That message is one that Escambia County school officials are hoping to get across to current students through the use of the Choice Bus, which visited several schools in the county last week.
Choice Bus is a dual-purpose vehicle that presents a view of life through the eyes of individuals who made the wrong choice.
To make the consequences of dropping out of school more tangible, The Mattie C. Stewart Foundation decided to build a life-sized replica of a prison cell on a school bus to challenge students to make the choice to stay in school.
Barnett said the bus is just one way county officials are hoping to bring more awareness to students about staying in school.
During the presentation to middle and high school students in the county, Lynn Smelley, program manager for Choice Bus, said it is never too late to present the message to students.
The Mattie C. Stewart Foundation, created by Dr. Shelley Stewart in memory of his murdered mother, is a national non-profit organization dedicated to reducing the dropout rate among high school students. For more information concerning Choice Bus or the Mattie C. Stewart Foundation, visit www.mattiecstewart.org.