Administrators use cell phones to keep kids in school

By Taylor Kearns - bio | email

KERSHAW COUNTY, SC (WIS) - A new program in Kershaw County is using technology to help keep kids in school. It involves cell phones with GPS tracking and old-fashioned mentoring.

Some parents might say if you want your kid to stay in school and stay on the right track, don't give them a cell phone. But in Kershaw County Tuesday, 10 students got them for free, and they're required to keep the phones with them all the time - even at school. "Our youth seem to embrace the technology so well," said Truancy specialist Paula Costello, "So we wanted to incorporate the technology into something to do with our tracking."

The phones are part of a program called "Right Back on Track." The students can only dial a few numbers, including an assigned mentor the students have never met. "They'll make phone calls," said Costello, "They'll do wake-up calls. They'll do curfew calls. They'll do goal setting calls, talk about strategies. The goal is to keep them in school."

The phones are also rigged with GPS. If the students venture somewhere they shouldn't be at a particular time, the mentor can take action. "I think I'm going to learn a lot from the program," said student Ashley Whren.

19-year-old Whren volunteered for this program. "When I can't get up in the morning, I have somebody to wake me up," she said, "When I'm going through problems at least I have somebody to talk to."

The students are required to talk to their mentors at least three times a week for 6 weeks. After that, the program is scaled back.

Ultimately, administrators hope phones in hand will translate to students in school. "It's hopefully gonna be a way to change their life, to get them right back on track," said Costello.

Costello said grant money will pay for the program. It's the first of its kind in South Carolina.

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