DeKalb’s new student success bus is coming to a neighborhood near you

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Vasanne Tinsley, interim superintendent of DeKalb schools, addresses guests during the unveiling of the new Student Success Mobile Center at Lithonia High School on Wednesday, March 29, 2023. “Exposure is key in making sure our students are engaged,” Tinsley said. (Miguel Martinez / [email protected])

By Cassidy Alexander

The Student Success Mobile Center, unveiled Wednesday by the DeKalb County School District, is not your average bus.

It used to be — but now it’s equipped with everything the district needs to give students college and career counseling wherever they are.

It has computers for students to research opportunities after graduation; virtual reality equipment so they can tour colleges from their own neighborhoods; gaming consoles; and a mini studio to create video content, to help students explore new career paths.

“Some students will have the opportunity to explore a career that perhaps they never thought they’d be able to explore without this mobile unit,” said interim Superintendent Vasanne Tinsley.

Lithonia High School student Ayana Lynch (left) checks out the gaming center inside the new Student Success Mobile Center on Wednesday, March 29, 2023. The retrofitted bus gives students a chance to explore career and college pathways with the latest technology. (Miguel Martinez / [email protected])

District officials hope the bus will be out at schools and neighborhoods daily.

The mobile center was unveiled as part of the district’s College and Career Day 2023. Adults were encouraged to wear shirts representing the schools they went to, and wore stickers that said “Ask Me About College.”

“We want students to understand that their opportunities are unlimited,” Tinsley said.

DeKalb County’s graduation rate in 2022 was 76% — among the lowest in metro Atlanta and below the state average. About 60% of DeKalb graduates in 2021 were attending college or pursuing technical education, according to state reporting. District leaders are hoping to improve those numbers through initiatives like this mobile center.

Lithonia High salutatorian Ayana Lynch was impressed when she checked out the bus. She was expecting more of a party bus, she said — not the numerous computers, and seating and carpeting that made parts of the bus look more like a conference room.

“It’s definitely not what I expected because I ride the bus every day,” she said. “I’m kind of amazed, like in shock.”

It’s the second retrofitted bus for the district. The first, the IMPACT Learning Hub, was a classroom on wheels meant to bring resources to marginalized communities after the pandemic. In 2021, it started visiting neighborhoods with a library, computers, internet access, desks and study nooks for students and their families.

Morehouse College chemistry professor Muhsinah Morris (left) gives interim DeKalb County School District Superintendent Vasanne Tinsley a virtual reality tour of the college inside the district’s new Student Success Mobile Center at Lithonia High School on Wednesday, March 29, 2023. (Miguel Martinez / [email protected])

The newest Student Success Mobile Center cost roughly $125,000, which was covered by a grant the district received in 2021 from the Center on Reinventing Public Education and TNTP — formerly The New Teacher Project. The mobile units complement the services already provided at student success centers at the district’s existing campuses.

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