Can Celebrities Help High School Dropouts?

A Dream School that pairs celebrities with high school dropouts. Can wrong turns be avoided?

Here is an alarming statistic: 82% of prisoners in America are high school dropouts. Now, just imagine Suze Orman, Swizz Beatz, David Arquette, and Soledad O’Brien teaching some of those students—before they got to prison. Could this make a difference?

Jamie Oliver and 50 Cent think it can, and they are making this happen through their new series, Dream School, on the Sundance Channel.

With a growing consciousness about the health risks and costs of high school truancy, Jamie Oliver and 50 Cent have partnered to pair some of our favorite celebrities with high school dropouts. They have focused on a diverse crowd of at-risk youth, including pregnant teens and bullies (as well as those being bullied) in an attempt to address the dismal stats seen in this report by the California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

If it isn’t immediately obvious how truancy affects the health and well-being of us all, think about this: in California, a 10 percent increase in graduation rates would reduce murder and assault rates by 20 percent. 

It's calculated that in California alone, $1.4 billion is lost each year due to student absences. That means $1,000 is lost for every student who is enrolled, so the students who actually go to class are being affected by the dropouts/truant, too.

Although the state of our country is usually expressed through indicators like the GDP, the stock market, and the national debt, these metrics are only telling us how the economy is doing, not how people are doing. In order to get a more complete picture of our nation’s total progress, it is important to know the availability of someone’s access to opportunity and knowledge. 

It will be interesting to see what takeaways might come from the Dream School experiment to get us closer to increasing school attendance, while decreasing how many young adults are placed behind bars.

Episodes of the show air on Mondays at 10 p.m. on the Sundance Channel. Watch the trailer, and let us know what you think of the show.



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