BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Biloxi School District's campaign to reduce the dropout rate and raise the graduation level got a big boost Wednesday. Popp's Ferry Elementary became the first school in Biloxi to launch a Pledge Program. Now, getting a high school diploma is the goal for more than 600 elementary students.
"You are the class of 2025!" announced the principal to a group of first graders.
To emphasize that phrase, the little ones received a pencil with their graduation year on it.
Popp's Ferry Elementary administrators brought each grade into the auditorium Wednesday to unveil its new Pledge Program. Second through fifth graders took turns signing a large banner displaying their graduation year. Their signatures symbolized their pledge to stay in school and graduate.
"A lot of times we just think at elementary, we're just trying to prepare them for the next level. But there is a bigger goal in mind and that bigger goal is that they walk across that stage and receive a diploma," said Popp's Ferry Elementary Principal Dr. Todd Boucher.
Since the kindergartners and first graders are still working on their writing skills, they will sign their banners next year. But every morning, they will recite this pledge:
"I belong to a school that believes in me, and I believe in myself. I can achieve greatness. I have high expectations for myself. I will graduate with my peers. When I believe, I become. I am Popp's Ferry proud!"
"We start talking about when they're going to graduate and we ask them in the hallway, 'What class are you?' They're telling us now class of 2023, class of 2024. If we talk about it every day, that's the way we're going to ingrain it in their head," said Boucher.
"You have to do homework, read, write and study a lot of things," said first grader Tamya Turner. "I want to graduate from high school, because you want to move on to college."
"I want to be successful," said first grader Mayme Mikovich.
And when the students leave Popp's Ferry Elementary, their class banner will follow them to the junior high and high school.
"They can see that year after year the banner hanging in the hallway. Sure, they'll get a good chuckle probably as the years go on and say, 'That's my signature.' But they'll remember that they put their name on that banner and that was their commitment to do what was necessary," said Boucher.
Posters will be placed in every classroom at the school to remind the students of the graduation pledge they made on this day.