HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Hancock County eighth graders marched into the middle school gym Friday morning, ready to take the next step in their lives.
"Next year, you will begin a new journey that will be filled with excitement, worry, frustration and accomplishments. Next year, you will become the largest ninth grade class to ever enter the doors of Hancock High School," said Hancock High Principal Rhett Ladner.
"High school is great and I guarantee you'll enjoy it. With this enjoyment comes responsibility," said Hancock High Junior Trey Vernaci.
But based on the school district's dropout rate, out of the 345 eighth graders in the class, 55 of them may not walk across the graduation stage. So the district asked every eighth grader to sign a pledge, promising to stay in school and get their diplomas.
"Because I want to graduate. I want a career myself. I want to succeed," said eighth grader Alissa Adam after she signed the pledge form.
Parents and guardians stood by their side, vowing to motivate and guide their children along.
"I think it's great," said Allisa's dad Ricky Adam. "This is my second child to go through this ceremony and it has been wonderful."
The school district superintendent has a personal reason for supporting the four-year-old Pledge Program. His daughter also made a commitment Friday to finish high school.
"So far, we're seeing great results," said Alan Dedeaux. "We have over 1,300 in our high school, and that is a record number for students. Next year, we'll go over 1,400 students in our high school and we attribute a lot of that to these types programs that we initiated and started early on in our students' lives."
The pledges and the student's predictions for their futures will be placed in a time capsule. That time capsule will be opened in May of 2015, the year the eighth graders graduate from high school.
"Don't be the person who's breaking the promise. Be the person who is keeping the promise. Graduation is something everyone looks forward to. You don't want to be left out," eighth grader Savannah Saucier told her classmates.
The principal at Hancock High also has high praise for the Pledge Ceremony. He told us last year, 57 seniors dropped out of school. This year, that number has gone down to 27 students.