COPY-Program Cuts Dropout Rate, Not Offered in Every High School - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Jackson 4/08/08

COPY-Program Cuts Dropout Rate, Not Offered in Every High School

By Jon Kalahar
jkalahar@wlbt.net

Hundreds of high school students from across Mississippi are in downtown Jackson this week to take part in a career development conference.

It's a program designed by the organization "Jobs for Mississippi Graduates" with lowering Mississippi's drop out rate as it's number one goal.

And students believe it's working.  

These students are entering the "real world".  Each booklet has a different job and monthly income.  They must balance their budget while paying bills, taxes and buying groceries.  Eye opening for some, but also a difficult task, made even more difficult if they drop out of high school.

"We want them to realize there's a lot more than you just saying you can do it on your own, it's gonna take a lot of work," said Evelyn Edwards, Jobs for Mississippi Graduates board member.

Many of these students were in danger of falling short in school, becoming another statistic. Now they look forward to what's next after they graduate.

"I want to have a good life and I want to have better for my kids and I want to have a good future," said Riverside High School senior, Chelsea Donald.

Teachers known as "job specialists" guide students through a class that's an hour a day, 5 days a week.  Most see college as the next step, some already see beyond their education.

"My job specialist, she told me you can do anything you put your mind to so I said why not go for something that's hard, so I said why not become a surgeon," said J.J. McClain High School senior, Charlene Meeks.

Once in the "jobs for Mississippi graduates" program, 95% graduate high school.  And lessons go beyond the classroom with community projects and field trips, Callaway High School senior Jeremy Taylor says they stay busy.

"That's, I think one of the problems with drop outs is that like when you drop out you don't have anything to keep you busy, so that's why the option comes up," said Taylor.

Now for 1,500 students statewide the options are numerous.

"It gives us an alternative and helps us become better people, by us seeing people trying to help us, I say well okay people do care, so we don't drop out when we see people caring for us, said Meeks."

Unfortunately, only 46 schools statewide use the program. "Jobs for Mississippi Graduates" only pays for half of the $50,000 dollar price tag.

Organizers believe they could significantly reduce the drop out rate if they could just get the money to be in every high school.

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