Program has big success preventing school dropouts

Educators in Timmonsville are praising a dropout prevention program for at-risk high school students.

The statewide program started five years ago under the leadership of Governor Mark Sanford and the state Workforce Investment Board.

Friday, we caught up with the students from Timmonsville High School picking up trash along the highway.

It's part of their community service project with Jobs for America's Graduates better known as JAG, a statewide dropout prevention program.

And this year, all 16 seniors enrolled in JAG will graduate. They've been in JAG since the ninth grade.

Zack Howard is one of them. He says it's really made a difference in his life. "I like hated to come to class an mainly because I got like in a real big fight in my eighth grade year, and I didn't want to have anything to do with school."

Deana Washington says she suffered from a low self-esteem, until she got involved with JAG. "Four years ago, I was like real self-conscious about myself, and I felt like I wasn't going to do something with my life. I made it. I'm going to do something."

And that's the core purpose of JAG. It teaches students character while building their self-confidence.

"I'm here for a reason and I think my reason is to be a successful crime scene investigator," said another JAG student, Brittney Williams.

"You need to have the skills so when your back is up against the wall, it's a character building situation," said Abby Jones-Lawson, the JAG instructor.

Zack Howard's learned a lot about character, even when picking up trash. He looks forward to getting his diploma in a couple of weeks.

Eleven students in the JAG program will go on to college and the military.

Timmonsville's graduation rate is 75 percent.