It's not enough for Hillsborough County students to return to school this coming Monday. The important thing is to make sure they stay there.
That's the gist of a campaign that Superintendent of Schools Walter L. Sickles announced Monday during a back-to-school news conference.
"We want to make youngsters fully aware of all the positive things that go along with being a high school graduate," Sickles said in announcing the school system's latest efforts to discourage youngsters from dropping out of school.
"One in seven of today's preschoolers is at risk of dropping out of school between now and the year 2000," Sickles said. He also said that dropouts cost the nation more than $240-billion in lost earnings and forgone taxes during their lifetimes.
The new campaign includes a 30-second television commercial that will begin airing in September. The commercial, produced by local advertising company Chenoweth & Faulkner at no cost to the school system, carries the message that "if a person drops out, he is going to be relegated to poverty, probably for the rest of his life," Sickles said.
In the ad, a gritty black-and-white film, a narrator urges youngsters to drop out of school to start an exciting career, such as the one the boy in the film is pursuing _ mopping floors. The boy is shown in a series of unpleasant situations that range from hitchhiking to eating scraps of food on a street corner.
The ad concludes with a plea to students to stay in school. Students who are having problems are urged to talk to a school counselor or call a new dropout prevention hot line.
The hot line is a 24-hour number that gives callers a recorded message urging students who are considering dropping out to reconsider. The message provides information about alternative education programs and suggests resources within the school system and community. The hot line number is 681-4004.