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#GrowSouth Year 2 Report

Last night, the Mayor returned to the southern sector of Dallas for his annual report on the GrowSouth initiative in South and Southern Dallas. The report focused on development and encouraging stories over the past year. We, the Mayor's Star Council, took a much larger role in the event this year, and we helped promote the many great things coming from the GrowSouth plan.

This year, a packed cafeteria at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Magnet Center (which houses the #1 high school in the nation) in Oak Cliff played host to Mayor Rawlings and his year two report of the GrowSouth plan. It was great to catch up with the many friends and faces all working towards the same goal of cultivating the opportunities that exist in South/Southern Dallas. The Mayor focused on his ten key indicators of the GrowSouth plan. And, while the Mayor shared stories of increased economic growth and neighborhood development; a small army of MSC members took to social media to share the Mayor's plan.

While the Mayor shared great information, graded the progress and discussed how the city can do better; for us, our highlight came when three of our very own Mayor's Rising Star Council members joined the Mayor on stage at the conclusion. Seeing these MRSC members and hearing about their hopes for their neighborhood was an inspiring conclusion to the Mayor's report. As the MSC and MRSC continue to build relationships in South Dallas, events like today are a great way to see how far we've grown and how much more work there is left to do.

David Higbee | MSC Member 2013-2014


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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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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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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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A Story Grown South

As of late, Southern Dallas has become the topic of much discussion within the city among professionals and community leaders alike. It’s hard to believe that a portion of our city, which is greater than the city of Atlanta in size, has been largely ignored until recently. With the vast potential for economic growth and the opportunities to strengthen the schools and communities in the area it has become the focal point for many businesses and city leaders. This recent focus has all been spearheaded by Mayor Rawlings’ “Grow South” initiative and served as one of the main reasons I chose to get involved in the Mayor's Star Council. I’ll admit that I had other reasons as well. Obviously it gives me the opportunity to stay civically engaged, strengthen my own professional network, impact my city and all of the other bells and whistles that come with being involved in this great organization.  But, as time went on, this new endeavor became very personal.

You see I’m actually from Oak Cliff. I used to go to Kiest Park on Sundays, worked in Wynnwood Village as a teenager, LOVE Rudy’s Chicken, and think Wingfield’s has the best burgers on the planet. While I've lived in various parts of the city, there has been one constant in my 35 years of living and that constant resides right off the Ledbetter Drive and Lancaster Road intersection at 2347 East Pentagon Parkway. Marion Virginia Heyward is my grandmother and she has lived there for 51 years and still does to this day. I was there recently to visit her and to help her clear out some of the bulk trash that she had accumulated at the old house and it occurred to me that her story is one that runs parallel with the story of Oak Cliff. It is a place filled with good, hard-working people who take pride in their community. Madear (as we've affectionately called her for years) is the quintessential matriarch of our entire family. She is the mother of six children who were all educated in the Dallas Independent School District. She had various jobs that ranged from working at the cafeteria at Kimball High School to cleaning houses for the more affluent in the city. She eventually went on to work for the post office and then retire. “I worked there for 40 years, 6 months and 28 days” she says. I’m in awe of her as I can only imagine the many hardships that she must have encountered during times that were plagued with racism, segregation, and crime. These are things that can take a toll on a person and their family. The community as a whole was impacted by that same toll. I can even see the manifestation of this toll in the old house as I help to clean it up. It has largely become dilapidated over the years. It saddens me as I see the wood rotted away by termites and holes in some of the walls that you can see clear outside from. But Madear hasn’t lost a beat, as I clean with the rest of my family members and she tells jokes and stories and we’re all cracking up. Always the generous heart she then lets us know that she has to go to take a fellow church member to church. “Madear wait, I need to take your picture for my blog” I say, “Ok baby let me get my church-hat” she replies. As I snap a few shots with my camera I find myself in awe again because at age 75 she found enough love for 6 children, 17 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren and none of us lacked for any of it. It’s that same resolve that is representative of the community of Oak Cliff and its citizens and the reason that I have so much optimism for its future.

And now, that same optimism is shared in the vision of the “Grow South” initiative. Anyone who knows me knows that I take a lot of pride in being where I’m from and it would make me even more proud to be able to significantly impact my community positively and to know I made the most of my experience on the Mayor’s Star Council. But really….I just want to make her proud.

Marco Smith | Mayor's Star Council 2013-2014

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