HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) – It had all the excitement and sounds of a school pep rally. But instead of cheering for an upcoming football game, the Harrison Central ninth graders were getting psyched about graduation.
This year, Harrison Central High School received a $33,000 grant from Gear Up Mississippi. On Thursday, the school held a celebration declaring September 23, 2010, Gear Up Mississippi Day for Harrison Central High School in the city of Gulfport.
The money will help the school fund a variety of programs to boost the graduation rate, including mentoring, tutoring, ACT workshops, even parenting classes. Basically, whatever it takes to help each student succeed. The program also tracks the students' progress over the next five years.
"To ensure that they have all the tools they need to be successful and stay in school. If it means providing breakfast for them in the morning, if it means making sure that they get home, because we do have money in the grant allocated for busses," said Gear Up Sponsor Nancy G. Tillman.
Last year, 75 percent of the students that started high school four years ago, actually graduated from Harrison Central. The district wants to make sure all 507 of this year's freshmen walk across the stage in 2014.
"We want every one of you to finish high school, to graduate, complete your education," Harrison County Schools Superintendent Henry Arledge told the crowd. "There is absolutely no excuse for anybody in this room not to pursue some kind of college scholarship."
"I see no reason why at least a busload of kids almost drop out of school per day and that's quite a big number," said Gear Up Mississippi Associate Director Juanester Russell. "Our goal is to make sure the students get all that encouragement and everything that they need so they can stay in school."
Along with Harrison County, high schools in Moss Point, George County, and Biloxi are also in the Gear Up program. In all, 40 high schools in 20 school districts in Mississippi are part of the program. Mississippi received $18 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Education.