The Choice Bus Visits West Virginia Schools
Imagine being able to board a bus and know what could happen in the future. On May 28th and 29th, The Mattie C. Stewart Foundation will bring the Choice Bus to West Virginia schools. The program is an actual school bus, designed to teach students about the value of a good education.
“When you walk on, the seats are facing to the back, and there’s a classroom setting. There are sayings all over, there are statistics talking about life and confident choices, and there’s a huge flat screen TV that the students are facing. Only twenty-four students can board the bus at a time, and they see a four minute video.”
The Mattie C. Stewart Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Birmingham, Alabama, dedicated to reducing the national dropout rate. Sherri Stewart is the Executive Director of the foundation. She explained that the Choice Bus is a half-classroom, half-prison cell setting.
“Dr. Stewart, the founder of the Mattie C Stewart Foundation, he went into the prison systems in 2007, and he asked the prisoners, ‘Which ones of you want to teach from the inside out?’ and the ones that raised their hands are the ones that students will see in this brief video. And what they’re saying is, If I had stayed in school I wouldn’t be here, If I had listened to my parents, If I would have hung out with the right crowd and not wanted to hang out with the ‘wrong crowd,’ and they tell their stories.
“After the video is over, we do a brief little session with them. We want them to start thinking about what they’d like to do, career choices. We encourage them to talk to the guidance counselors, or the graduation coaches, teachers, mentors in the community. After that, we reveal an actual replica of a prison cell.”
By offering such a realistic setting, Stewart explained that students learn about the power of their choices in a tangible way.
“We can watch TV and we see things and the reality is not there. We can hear someone talk to us and tell us about things, but to actually see it, feel it, smell it, touch it, the students actually get it.”
The bus has been described as the nation’s first mobile experience dedicated to reducing the dropout rate, impacting the lives of more than two million students in 20 states across the U.S.
“When they leave, we ask them to sign a pledge card, that they will pledge to stay in school. They will pledge to make good choices. They will start thinking about careers. We ask the teachers or the school administrators to make sure that those pledge cards are visible so they can see them every day.
“It’s a twenty five minute program, so it’s not long, but it’s so powerful.”
On Wednesday May 28, The Choice Bus will visit Pocahontas County High School from 8:30am-3pm. On Thursday the 29th the bus will be at Marlinton Middle School from 8-11am, then at Green Bank Elementary Middle School from noon-2:45pm. To learn more about the Choice Bus and the Mattie C Stewart Foundation, visit mattiecstewart.org.
“My father, the founder Dr. Shelly Stewart, he talks about labeling the students as ‘at risk.’ In essence, he says all of us are at risk if we don’t do something, to put morals and ethics and thought processes and critical thinking into their lives.”