RUSTBURG, Va. -

There are lots of reasons why students chose to drop out of school, and most of them are outside of Robert Arnold's control.

"When they turn 18, they have a choice to make.  The law says that they can leave school," said Arnold, assistant superintendent for Campbell County schools.

Arnold and his staff have spent the last year studying files of students who chose to quit school instead of graduate.

Most had one thing in common: they were older than their peers in the same grade.

"If they continued in school, following a standard track, they would be 19 or 20 by the time they graduated," Arnold explained.

Research shows students are more likely to drop out when they reach the age of 18 and still have a year or more left in high school.

Campbell County is addressing the problem with a new program called "Jump Start."

To qualify a student needs to be 15 years old before the end of eighth grade.  They'll complete one month of summer school in two consecutive years, before ninth and tenth grade.

The program will be free to participants and transportation will be provided by the school system.

"In essence they can get four years of high school in three years," said Arnold.

Students will complete classes like World History and PE/Health in the summer before ninth grade, and 10th grade English in the summer before their sophomore year.

Arnold says it's an easy way for students who were held back in early grades to catch up and graduate with their peers.

He believes it will go a long way toward lowering drop out rates.

"We feel like if we do these things, we will improve the graduation rate," Arnold said.

Around 40 current eighth graders in Campbell County qualify for "Jump Start."  Information about the program will be sent home to their parents in the next few weeks.