PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Hundreds of Pascagoula High students are taking on a national challenge to stay in school and graduate. The competition can help the students and their school rack-up cash prizes and other rewards.
"We're in the lead right now, so that's a good thing. I'm excited!" Demetria Boykin announced to a chemistry class Monday.
Boykin is trying to get students at Pascagoula High pumped up. As the school's career center manager, she wants all 1,100 students to make a commitment to graduate.
"Having this challenge and challenging the students to do good, to want to finish school, and want to come to school, I think it's very important. And being a mother myself, I think it gave me the push for it," said Boykin.
Pascagoula High is participating in Taco Bell's "Graduate for Mas" Program. Mas means "more" in Spanish. Students can earn points for themselves and their school by signing-up and making the pledge to graduate, as well as participating in games and other activities on the website.
"These articles or videos give information about ACT taking, SAT taking," Boykin said.
Plus, students can learn about scholarship opportunities and get tips on how to survive high school. After earning their points, they can redeem them for all sorts of prizes.
"We do daily announcements. We give out taco coupons, 'Hey, just join, you could win a PlayStation Vita.' One girl won that. I won a computer, so that's a big incentive," said Pascagoula High Senior Lydia Hawthorne.
Pascagoula High has already received $500 for having more than a 30-percent participation rate. The school that wins the overall competition will receive $10,000 and a visit from a celebrity. Along with the financial rewards, the students realize they can earn a personal achievement, a high school diploma.
"It's important to get your education. It's important to go to school, because if you're not going to get it for yourself, then nobody else will, and there's nobody to feel sorry for you but yourself," said Pascagoula High Junior Aaliyah Loper.
"Finishing high school and getting to college is a really great opportunity for me. If I'm going to be a statistic, I might as well be a positive one," said Hawthorne. "I really believe they'll step up their game and be like, we're going to win this."
The competition ends March 18. Teachers, parents and anyone in the community can participate. As part of the challenge, you can also vote for a "Very Important Teacher" by clicking here. Pascagoula High chemistry teacher Elizabeth Bonilla is one of the nominees.