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Scott was once one of those Shelbyville dropouts. "I dropped out of high school because it was boring," he says. "I had friends dropping out all the time."

After he left school, Scott earned just minimum wage working in a grocery store. "I couldn't do anything with that," he says. "You can't have any fun because you've got bills to pay." The reality, according to the American Youth Policy Forum, is that a high school dropout earns $10,000 less per year than a high school graduate. Over a lifetime, the graduate will earn a million dollars more than the dropout.

Though one-time dropout 24-year-old Grace has two daughters, a nice house and a car, her pending divorce has left her with the realization of what having no diploma will mean. "I'm probably going to have to let my house go because I'm just not going to be able to afford it," she says. "I haven't got the education now to get a good job."

Grace says she wishes her mother, also a dropout, had more forcefully explained how much of a struggle life can be without a diploma. Grace says she now feels trapped. "There's no right or left way to turn to get me out of it. It's just constant." she says.
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FROM: What Bill and Melinda Gates Want You to Know
Published on April 11, 2006

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