A fifth of the nation’s public school students attend rural schools, but nearly a third of those kids don’t graduate. In fact, many schools that researchers have labeled “dropout factories” are in rural communities. No state has more than South Carolina, which has 50. In this state, lots of teenagers just don’t think they need a high school diploma.
Oconee County, S.C., sits on the far west fringes of the state, just a few miles from the Georgia border. This is where Nick Dunn was born, and where his father died in a car accident a day before Christmas. Nick was 11.