The Choice Bus Visits Etowah County Schools

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Thanks to a partnership between State Farm and The Mattie C. Stewart Foundation, nearly 500 students boarded The Choice Bus. 

Rainbow and Etowah middle school students received a firsthand look at what education can bring – at least $1 million over a person’s lifetime if they graduate from college. The half-prison cell, half-classroom converted school bus, which visually portrays two different life perspectives, visited students Thursday, Nov. 13 and Friday, Nov. 14. 

The bus is one of six tools created by The Mattie C. Stewart Foundation devoted to helping reduce the dropout rate in the United States. Since 2008, The Choice Bus has visited more than 2,000,000 students in 21 states. 

“When students board The Choice Bus, they get to experience what life is actually like from two different points of view. It helps students dig deep into thinking about their futures based on the decisions they will make. Connecting education to future lifetime earning potential and career goals is what we strive to encourage,” said Sherri Stewart, executive director of The Mattie C. Stewart Foundation. 

Through a grant provided by State Farm, The Choice Bus visits schools along with the Learn2Earn Booklet and the InsideOut Toolkit. Learn2Earn, a financial literary curriculum, was created by the foundation to help educators teach students about the importance of understanding the world of finance, such as budgeting, taxes, credit cards, loans, etc. 

The InsideOut Toolkit consists of a Teacher’s Guide, a Stay in School Pledge Card and the InsideOut documentary – a 26-minute DVD that exposes the true life story of prison inmates and the long-term consequences that dropping out of school has caused. 

The documentary and companion Teacher’s Guide have been used in classrooms and community centers in 49 states and Canada and viewed by an estimated 15,000,000 students, parents and community leaders. 

“The Choice Bus has impacted thousands of lives,” said Emily Clark, State Farm Insurance public affairs specialist. 

“It has been an honor to be proud partners with The Mattie C. Stewart Foundation and see a difference in the way our schools and communities feel about education. We believe that students now understand that their futures are based on the consequences of every decision they make.” 

State Farm and MCSF have partnered for the last four years to proudly bring The Choice Bus to Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, New York, South Carolina, Texas and additional State Farm territories. State Farm is determined to strive higher in all areas of helping students to stay connected to education and helping to build more education-focused environments. 

Dr. Shelley Stewart, founder and president of The Mattie C. Stewart Foundation, said, “We are proud to work with State Farm to spread the message of education to Alabama. Illustrating to students the uncut vision of what poor choices leads to can help them think about their actions. Our mission is to continue spreading the power of education to our youth across the nation.” 

When Stewart decided to take on the nation’s escalating dropout rate, he took the unbeaten path.

Instead of creating programs to keep students in school, Dr. Stewart developed experiential learning tools to help young people understand the consequences and rewards of the choices they make.

The groundbreaking InsideOut documentary positions prisoners as messengers who encourage youth to get an education. 

“The goal is not to scare students to stay in school, but to simply let them hear from people who learned the consequences of dropping out of school the hard way,” said Dr. Stewart.

The 26-minute classroom documentary and supporting curriculum have been used in classrooms and community centers across the country and more than 10 million people have viewed the documentary.

To make the consequences of dropping out of school more tangible, MCSF built The Choice Bus, the nation’s first interactive, mobile experience dedicated to reducing the dropout rate.

The front half of The Choice Bus is literally a classroom, a visual representation of learning and self-improvement. But the entire second half of the bus is an exact replica of a prison cell. The Choice Bus helps students understand the relevancy of education and earning potential in life by demonstrating the power of choices.

MCSF created Bewhoyouwanna beSM as a career awareness tool that engages youth through one-on-one interaction. Volunteers from a variety of professional fields show students different career paths such as photographer, welder, electrician, graphic designer, cosmetologist, public relations officer, fireman, radio personality, marketing account executive and more. Introducing students to the careers of successful adults assists them in understanding the career paths available to them.

“There is no better learning tool than experience itself,” said Phil Christian, Executive Director of MCSF. 

“We designed our tools to let young people and their families experience first-hand the powerful benefits of education and the likely consequence that await high school dropouts. We know from student and teacher testimonies that we’re having a positive impact on their choice to stay in school.”

Dr. Stewart’s commitment to reducing school dropout rates has captured national acclaim by making a difference in the lives of thousands of youth in 47 states. 

The Choice Bus, unveiled in September 2008, has already impacted the lives of more than one million students and has been featured on Shepard Smith’s Fox News Report. InsideOut was selected by Hollywood Black Film Festival Screening Committee to be screened at the 10th Annual Hollywood Black Film Festival in Beverly Hills, California.

To learn more about The Mattie C. Stewart Foundation and The Choice Bus, visit www.mattiecstewart.org. 

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