Good Sunday morning, everyone! There has been a lot of talk in our community about the crime. People are scared to go out at night. People want to move from our area.

I have been in this office for three years now and there are times I still must dig through files when something new comes up. So recently in one of those searches I ran across a Strategic Plan that had been done by the United Way Board back in 2011. The objective was to increase the number of students graduating from high school.

According to the County Rankings report that came out earlier this year, Vermilion county’s rate is at 80 percent, well below the state average of 87 percent.

In the files were studies on how crime can be reduced through better education. It stated that criminal behavior that begins during youth can continue into adulthood. By keeping adolescents in the classroom and off the streets, later criminal activity may be avoided.

So, I did some more research on the subject and found that dropping out of school certainly doesn’t automatically result in a life of crime. Most individuals who leave high school without a diploma are law-abiding citizens.

High school dropouts are, however, far more likely than high school graduates to be arrested or incarcerated. And while data on the education of incarcerated individuals is hard to find, the most recent research available from the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that 67 percent of inmates in America’s state prisons, 56 percent of federal inmates and 69 percent of inmates in local jails did not complete high school.

More than one-third of incarcerated individuals said the main reason they quit school was because of academic problems, behavior problems or lost interest. All issues that could be corrected.

Illinois spends an average of $13,077 a year to educate a student and the state’s annual average cost per inmate is $38,268 with a daily inmate average of 45,551. The U.S. in general spends more on prisons and jails than it does on educating our children.

So, lets look at what a high school diploma means to our community as well as to the individual. The big one is the cost savings to our government and community, but the best is the potential for a better standard of living for the individual, more community leaders, more stable families and, where I began, less violence in our community.

As our United Way office does its own Strategic Plan later this year this should be something we consider, don’t you think?

Give. Advocate. Volunteer. Live United.

Sherri M. Askren is president of United Way of Danville Area, Inc., 28 W. North St., Danville, IL 61832. Phone: 442-3512