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Mayor’s Rising Star Council join Mayor Rawlings to Clean Up Dallas!

This last Saturday, members of the Mayor’s Star Council and members of the Mayor’s Rising Star Council  joined Mayor Mike Rawlings to cleanup neighborhoods and parks in South Dallas. As part of the larger GrowSouth, groups ventured out into various areas of South Dallas and began the clean up efforts. Our own MSC and MRSC members share their thoughts on the day.

“I was very enthusiastic about the clean up. It was a joy cleaning our community while also having my friends around. I’m really glad that at least 30 of my peers from W. H. Adamson attended as well.”

-Mario C. Aparicio | MRSC Member 2014

“This weekend’s events at the different high school were truly amazing… Our group was at Lincoln High School and we had a good group from their school along with more than 50 students from South Oak Cliff High School who got on a bus and came over to Lincoln to serve and help clean up.  The Mayor showed up to share his appreciation with the students specifically encouraging them in that “they would be surprised how their leadership in stepping forward to clean the neighborhood would affect their community”.

- Trey Bowles | MSC Founder

“The cleanup was very motivating and inspiring for simply this reason: it showed our community that not only do we care about our surroundings, but far more about our citizens. Both schools (Roosevelt and Adamson) came together to find loyal and dedicated students,who wanted change in the community,to come and pick up litter surrounding Adamson. I was amazed about  the number of students who was willing to give up their Saturday to join the “movement of change”. From there we split up and went on to paint a wall. We had fun and the Rising Star Council got the done. So this wasn’t only for our benefit but rather selfless service.”

- Catandra Hollins | MRSC Member 2014

“Mayor’s Rising Star Council students from Adamson and Roosevelt High School recruited nearly 40 students to help with the “Neighborhood Clean Up.” Two groups of students cleaned the perimeter of Adamson High School – clearing the area of litter and debris, while another group ventured a little farther into the neighborhood and painted over a graffiti wall.  The students had fun while doing something good in the community – even Mayor Mike Rawlings stopped by to lend a hand at the wall painting!”

- Stephanie Norsworthy | MSC Member 2013-2014

“One of my favorite things about this weekend was hearing how many students want to continue to do more service projects. Not only did they enjoy getting to hang out with friends and free lunch but they all said this was one of the best volunteer experiences they have had.”

- Christian Yazdanpanah | MSC Member 2013-2014

“I am still so impressed with the fact that students from others communities got so excited about cleaning space that wasn’t there “own”.  They got so excited they brought 50+ friends with them.  When asked what was one word they would use to describe what they saw, experienced, etc. some listed were: shocking, inspirational, committed, heartbroken, community, teamwork, impact, difference.  This is hugely important as we continue to focus on teaching our young people about the importance of not only leadership but the value of giving back, even when it may not differently impact their “home”.”

- Christie Myers | MSC Member 2013-2014

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GrowSouth by Growing Local Businesses

Recently I had the privilege of speaking at Lincoln High School’s College and Career Day. You probably know the drill: a professional goes in and speaks to classes about their job, what their day to day looks like, what education and interests led to it, and, yes, salary.

Now the story of my career, like most, involves some twists and turns, and I am a commercial real estate developer and investor turned Community Designer. In shifting from skyscrapers to sidewalks, mixed-use developments to home redevelopments, one common thread has always been economic development.

So I begin by talking about my experiences in commercial real estate and transition over into public interest design, the concept that a neighborhood or community should be designed by those that experience it. That conversation began with me simply asking what the students liked and didn’t like about their neighborhoods. What are the pros? What are the cons?

The students were quick to list a lack of services; everything ranging from the lack of quality grocery stores to the lack of a Walmart. I’ll be honest, in urban-planning circles and many others, a Walmart is not the most desirable tenant because of the way it alters a neighborhood’s fabric, but I believe the important part to focus on is that they wanted all the goods and services a Walmart represents.  So I talk a bit more about what that looks like, how one structures a deal to land a big-box retailer in a retail shopping center and all the different roles in the process. Hey, my job that day wasn’t to lecture about my preferences, it was to provide exposure to different careers and industries, right?

After we exhaust that conversation, I ask again, “What do you like about your neighborhood?” One student mentions Bexar Street, a redeveloped street in the Bonton neighborhood that has been a project of many partners, including the City. Now, Bexar Steet is much more of my cup of tea; it’s designed to be a complete street, safe for those aged 8 to 80 using all forms of transportation, and provides an engaging public space at the street level. I feel the smirk grow across my face.  We talk a bit more about what they like, and I describe what some of the planners and architects I work with at bcWORKSHOP do to help build a complete street like what Bexar is striving to be.

Bexar Street

The bell rings and the first class leaves, and I take the break to look around the classroom a bit. Sure enough, right behind me are a bunch of student-drawn streetscapes with engaging retail-fronts, wide sidewalks, and varied businesses. THESE are the services they are talking about; this is the environment that they are literally dreaming of and drawing in Art class. My smirk grows wider.

For the second class, the kinks in my talk are worked out, and I’m moving from one topic to another, comforted by the experience I had in the first class. And then, in an unforeseen moment, one student, who admittedly struck me as the class clown (or what I would have been in high school if I was funnier), raised his hand and asked me if I could answer his question.

This student who hadn’t seemed engaged told me he wanted to start a business. He wanted to provide opportunities to those that were down on their luck. He wanted to provide shelter to those that needed it, but more importantly he wanted to provide a way for them to pull themselves up, and with them, move the entire community forward. He told me the building he wanted to do this in, which, no joke, happened to be where my Grandmother went to elementary school, and asked what he needed to make it happen. He got out his pen and paper, ready to take notes and get moving!

Lagow Elementary

I was blown away. His vision and passion was inspiring. It was profound. This student was out to change the world; he just needed some help developing his plan.

Now, one thing I left out about Bexar Street: they have an occupancy problem. Many of the storefronts, while charming, modern, and inviting, sit empty. Progress is coming, but not at the pace that most would prefer.  And this is one street; we can’t realistically expect external businesses to fill all the retail fronts if this is hopefully only the pilot complete street.

Streetscape

I believe that within that student holds the solution. There is the entrepreneurial spirit throughout D/FW and that is no less true in Southern Dallas or within its Dallas ISD schools. Fortunately, there are many organizations out to help these visionaries along, including Lincoln’s own Entrepreneurial Culinary Arts Program and the Young Professional Coalition for Dallas ISD (YPC4DISD), but we need more of it. Help students engage in school and enrich their communities? Sounds like a win-win. 

Mark Lea | MSC Class 2013-2014

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Dallas Dinner Table Review

We had been familiarized with the rules which state that people have the freedom to share their thoughts, ideals, and perspectives, without the worry of a response, recourse or argument. (So, in a nutshell you can share you own opinion but no one can respond, question, or challenge your stance on any issues). As we prepped our home to have 6 strangers (or new friends as we like to call them) come over for our very first Dallas Dinner Table experience, we didn’t really know what to expect.

We had a small but great group of 6 people including my bride. The night began with our kids being a key part of the experience with our daughter running around dancing, singing, and performing for our new friends.

When my 2 year old was asked what her thoughts were on race, she responded “Yes, I want to race” which got some good laughs. It struck me as sweet to think of the simplicity of a child’s mind. They have not been marred by the world yet. They have not been introduced to bias, hate, judgment, and some of the other things that infect our communities. There was sort of a beautiful naivety that I hope we can preserve and also help nurture  into a quest for knowledge and appreciation of all peoples.

We spent the first part of the evening getting to know everyone, going through introductions, and eventually made our way into the first segment of the evening… 

 The Paper Questions.

Each of us had to go around and ask a handful of questions to everyone else in the group. One by one, we would sit down individually and ask some fairly tough questions. There was no response, the interviewer would write down the answer and move on to the next person.

I believe it was set up this way to allow us to learn about the different perspectives in the group. However, this left many of us wanting and hearing for dialogue and deeper exploration into the “why” questions as much as the “what”.

We then sat at dinner where the discussion was headed up by our facilitator and we each had time to answer a few different questions and share our thoughts without worrying about offending our other Dallas Dinner Table members.

After dinner and desert, our time concluded and there was an overwhelming response from the group was that this was a great evening and we would love the opportunity to speak more.

Overall I really enjoyed this evening. It was a great first step. An important step, but not good enough. We need to get to a place where our meetings among races is not simply  a monologue, but rather a rich dialogue between unique, dynamic, and amazing people. In order for us to move forward and take the next step in our development as a city, we need to take the next step to a conversation and then from there to action. To change. To transformation of a whole city who not only believe that we are all created equal and have great value, but to a group of people that are determined to explore what makes each of us unique and special.

Dallas is a great city in America, but we will never become a global leader until we are willing to recognize what makes us different and embrace a growing and dynamic population of all races, creeds, religions and ideologies.

For information on how to engage and participate in future Dallas Dinner Table conversations you can go here to learn more:

Dallas Dinner Table

Trey Bowles | Mayor’s Star Council Founder

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Conspiring for Good

I’ve always said that if you truly love something, you will do it for free and share it with someone else. Having served as the regional liaison for A Billion + Change, I was able to see firsthand how over 500 companies, including 50 percent of the Fortune 100, were able to pledge more than $2 billion in pro bono support. Throughout last year, companies gathered in cities across the country at pro bono summits to pledge their support, share their learnings and gather best practices. It was no surprise that the largest gathering was in Dallas, and that a diverse group of community leaders, ranging from Mayor Rawlings to Chef Dean Fearing, shared the impact skill-based volunteering has on our city.

There is something in the water here that makes people want to give—not just through service but also monetarily. This past September, the Communities Foundation of North Texas coordinated the fifth annual North Texas Giving Day, which raised $24,500 a minute, totaling $25.2 million of financial support for more than 1,300 local nonprofits. Much like the Pro Bono Summit, Dallas showed up and had the largest giving day in the country. Since 2009, a total of $60 million has been raised in just five Giving Days.

It’s not just that we give big in Dallas; more importantly, it’s that we all find a way to give. In 2005, two Oak Cliff residents, Jason Roberts and Sarah Jane Semrad, wanted to find a way for the creative community to support the children being displaced by Hurricane Katrina. They decided on hosting an art auction and concert, and when Jason asked, “Hey, do you think we could get 20 artists?” and Sarah Jane said, “No, we need 100, man!” —lo, the Art Conspiracy was born. Within three months, a team came together using its own money and resources to recruit volunteers and artists, build a website, handle PR and prepare the Texas Theatre. Mind you, this was pre- Facebook and Twitter, so email and flyers were pretty much all the Art Conspiracy could use to invite people to this new event. To the team’s surprise, over 900 people showed up for the first year, and the event has grown every year since. This past year, attendance topped 2,500 people and the Art Conspiracy was able to raise over $50,000 for local arts education.

While the Art Conspiracy may never raise the $3.5 million the Cattle Baron’s Ball brings in, I think it is important to note that over 150 artists come together the Saturday before the event to work together on their auction pieces. This ‘work day’ is one of the most spiritual eventI have been to in Dallas because you see a community coming together, doing what they love, and sharing it for the benefit of others.

Whether you want to create art, serve meals at a shelter, or just write a check, there are a million ways to give back in Dallas. Luckily, there are also a million people willing to do it, which is what makes us one of the most giving cities in the country. Yes, big things happen in Dallas, and that includes helping each other. 

Christian Yazdanpanah | MSC Class 2013-2014

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I Survived.

Middle school years are awkward for everyone, I get that.  Here’s my story:

Few people know that I attended a public middle school.  Even fewer people know how truly horrible it was for me.   (Think Carrie, without the psycho mother, special powers and mass homicide. Still pretty traumatic, don’t you think? )

In all seriousness, my time at Edward H. Cary middle school was the darkest period in my life.  I was picked on, teased and taunted; I was called names; I was beat up; I was bullied.  It felt like every day was worse than the last. I would hide in the bathroom stall and pray.  I would pray that they wouldn’t find me.  I would pray for it end.  I would pray for me to end.

In their defense, I was an easy target.  I was new; I was different; I was bossy; I was poor.  Up until 7th grade, I had attended a small, Catholic school in the heart of my beloved barrio of Love Field.  Nuns were my teachers.  My mom was the school secretary.  I had practically grown up with my school chums.  Then all of a sudden, my mom lost her job and I was forced to attend a new public school with 700 strangers.  I cared about my grades.  I liked to read.  I sat in the front of the class.  I might as well have been an alien. It also didn’t help that I was in love with the school “hottie” and followed him around like a puppy dog.

But I survived. I survived and went on to attend Ursuline Academy then SMU.

MSC Principals

Fast forward back to the present.

Thanks to the Dallas Regional Chamber, people can sign up to be “Principal for a Day” at a Dallas ISD school.  “Business and civic leaders who wish to share their knowledge with school staff while learning more about our public schools can experience a normal school day in a Dallas school.”

The notion of me returning to Cary and serving as their guest principal was preposterous.  You don’t understand.  I would purposely avoid the area where Cary is located, which was difficult because my best friend lives just a few streets away.  Thanks to my wonderful colleagues in Mayor’s Star Council, I was persuaded to participate.  And I’m SO glad I did because I OWNED my “Principal for a Day” experience.  I walked the halls that once haunted my nightmares.  I passed out my business card (with my fancy title) to EVERYONE I could.  I smiled and talked to students as I visited classrooms.  Yes, I saw students with tattoos, students that were older than the traditional middle school age, students that could care less about school and their education.  I saw the “mean girls.”  BUT, I also saw teachers that cared.  I saw administrators that would notice if a girl was getting beat up in the band room.  It’s far from perfect but it’s safe.  And that makes my heart happy.

Some of the greatest gifts are unanswered prayers. I’m glad I didn’t end… I’m just getting started.  : )

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P.R.E.P. Rally at South Oak Cliff High School

On September 14th, members of the Mayor's Star Council participated in the P.R.E.P. Rally held at South Oak Cliff High School. The rally was a back-to-school event that included the entire community, students, staff, parents and organizations. We were thrilled to be a part of such a fun and special day. MSC was just one of many groups to be a part of the event that promoted Pride, Results, Excellence and Perseverance. Go Bears!

"What a great experience meeting the kids where they were and going back to my neighborhood. Nothing more rewarding."

Marco Smith

"The rally was an incredible picture of the southern Dallas community: a coming together of diverse cultures, centered around the future success of its next generation."

Brenton Jayatilaka

"What better way to show our students and teachers we support them, than by celebrating them. We need more PREP rallies."

Christian Yazdanpanah

"I loved meeting people so passionate about their schools feeding into South Oak Cliff."

Mark Lea

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