HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Hundreds of Hancock Middle School 8th grade students are promising to stay in school and graduate from high school. They made that promise during a pledge ceremony Friday morning.
School leaders say the program coupled with other school initiatives has made a major impact on the school district's graduation rate.
Amy Keith was among the 342 eighth graders who signed a pledge to see her education through the 12th grade.
"When ever you get in high school it's a different situation. It's a different environment and it keeps me focused on what I came there to do and that is to graduate and to promise to myself that I'm going to get through it," said Keith.
Eleventh grader Hayden Brewer signed the pledge three years ago. He says it's made a difference in his life and many of his fellow classmates.
"If a person was to say, he wanted to drop out you can almost assured that everyone in the classroom would tell them not to do that. And everybody kind of supports everybody," explained Brewer.
Alan Dedeaux, Superintendent of Hancock County Schools said, "It's a commitment that they make with their parent or guardian to graduate. This 8th grade pledge ceremony has had a very positive impact on our graduation rate."
He said before implementing the pledge program six years ago the school district had about a 65 percent graduation rate. Now that number stands at nearly 80 percent.
The Principal of Hancock Middle School Dane Aube said, "Tremendous work has been done in the middle school and the high school to graduate our students. Identifying those children who are at risk to drop out is so important and we start that early. "
Lead Teacher Sue Gholston, echoed his words, "What they do here will greatly impact their decision to continue in high school. If their middle school years are very rocky and unstable they will tend to get discouraged and drop out. "
School leaders say addressing each students needs individually and giving them the support they need will help them earn a high school diploma.
Superintendent Alan Dedeaux says one of the keys to the success of the program has been parental involvement.