Reflections of Our September Corporate Meeting on Homelessness

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Reflections of Our September Corporate Meeting on Homelessness

CitySquare is a non-profit, human and community development corporation in Dallas, Texas thatprovides food, health, housing and outreach services to the poor. The Mayor’s Star Council recently visited CitySquare, hosting a panel (Philip Kingston, Dallas City Council member, District 14; Edd Eason, Assistant Vice President of Health and Housing, City Square; Kourtny Garrett, President, Downtown Dallas, Inc.; Ron Hall, Author, Same Kind Of Different As Me; and Chad Houser, Executive Director and Chef, Café Momentum) to learn how we as leaders in our community can begin to be part of the solutions. 

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Local Voting, By the Numbers

By: Elizabeth Caudill, MSC 2015-2016

Each year elections take place on the local, state, and national level. As citizens of the United States, we have the privilege to vote on those who represent us in our city, county, state, nation, and of course the reigning heir to The Voice crown. Through all of the recent conversations surrounding the democratic process, one that is often accepted is: “Why should I even try to vote? It’s not like my vote counts anyways.” My vote doesn’t count. This is a hard and pessimistic view that leads to civic apathy, and hands all the power to those who choose to engage in the process.

Here are four numbers that show how “My Vote Doesn’t Count” is a load of bologna:

1.     5.63% - That’s less than the percentage of alcohol in Dallas’ own Deep Ellum IPA beer, yet it was the percentage of Dallas County that voted in the May 7th election. Out of 1,067,080 registered voters in Dallas County, a mere 60,117 votes were cast making the voter turnout 5.63%.

2.     42 – The number of votes that Dallas ISD Candidate Dustin Marshall won the District 2 trustee election in the June 18th runoff election. If everyone who ate at The Porch restaurant on Knox Henderson the night of Saturday June 18th decided to vote for the same candidate, they would have easily changed the outcome of the election.

3.     805,052 – The number of people in Dallas County who are over the age of 18, yet still not registered to vote or participating in government elections. Barriers such as voter registration requirements, education, and transportation to polling locations are some of the existing issues keeping people from being civically engaged.

4.     1 – The number of votes that you get in each and every election. A vote that may seem small and ‘doesn’t count,’ but when used with your fellow Dallas citizens holds a huge impact for the 2.5 million people living in Dallas County.  

Find out if you’re registered to vote or if your voter registration is up to date at www.dallascountyvotes.org . There you can also find information about upcoming elections, polling locations, and candidates. 

Each year elections take place on the local, state, and national level. As citizens of the United States, we have the privilege to vote on those who represent us in our city, county, state, nation, and of course the reigning heir to The Voice crown. Through all of the recent conversations surrounding the democratic process, one that is often accepted is: “Why should I even try to vote? It’s not like my vote counts anyways.” My vote doesn’t count. This is a hard and pessimistic view that leads to civic apathy, and hands all the power to those who choose to engage in the process.

Here are four numbers that show how “My Vote Doesn’t Count” is a load of bologna:

1.     5.63% - That’s less than the percentage of alcohol in Dallas’ own Deep Ellum IPA beer, yet it was the percentage of Dallas County that voted in the May 7th election. Out of 1,067,080 registered voters in Dallas County, a mere 60,117 votes were cast making the voter turnout 5.63%.

2.     42 – The number of votes that Dallas ISD Candidate Dustin Marshall won the District 2 trustee election in the June 18th runoff election. If everyone who ate at The Porch restaurant on Knox Henderson the night of Saturday June 18th decided to vote for the same candidate, they would have easily changed the outcome of the election.

3.     805,052 – The number of people in Dallas County who are over the age of 18, yet still not registered to vote or participating in government elections. Barriers such as voter registration requirements, education, and transportation to polling locations are some of the existing issues keeping people from being civically engaged.

4.     1 – The number of votes that you get in each and every election. A vote that may seem small and ‘doesn’t count,’ but when used with your fellow Dallas citizens holds a huge impact for the 2.5 million people living in Dallas County.  

Find out if you’re registered to vote or if your voter registration is up to date at www.dallascountyvotes.org. There you can also find information about upcoming elections, polling locations, and candidates. 

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Remembering Juneteenth

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Remembering Juneteenth

By: Brittany Teal, MSC 2015-2016

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. The institution of American slavery was prohibited by law when President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 on New Year’s Day.  On June 19, 1865, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, soldiers from the Union Army landed at Galveston, Texas to deliver the news and enforce the Proclamation.

While the exact reasons of the delay are unknown, we know that the instantaneous information sharing available today is a far cry from 19th century methods, which included snail mail, traditional media sources like newspapers and telegrams.

Further, slavery was the backbone of the American economy, particularly in the South, with many in the elite class vested in maintaining the institution. The financial impact of slavery prohibition in 1863 is tantamount to the illegalization of banking, insurance, or any other bedrock industry in current society.

There is a common misconception that Juneteenth is a Texas holiday. In actuality, Juneteenth is celebrated nationwide with Milwaukee and Minneapolis boasting two of the largest celebrations. Here in Dallas, you can celebrate at the Dallas Juneteenth Festival at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center or at the Best Juneteenth Celebration in Desoto.

We celebrate Juneteenth, not to highlight the delay. Rather, we celebrate the day that all enslaved African-Americans were legally freed from slavery.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. phrased it best - none of us is free until all of us are free.

 

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Mayor’s Star Council hosts record-breaking fundraiser

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Mayor’s Star Council hosts record-breaking fundraiser

More than 120 Mayor’s Star Council current class and alumni network members, guests, and the honorable Mike Rawlings, Mayor of Dallas, hosted the third annual Mayor’s Star Council fundraiser on March 31 at the Granada Theater in Dallas, Texas. The program opened with a few words by Mayor Rawlings and one of the Mayor’s Rising Star Council Leadership Academy students, David Johnston, after which blues artist Wanda King performed a private set for MSC guests. The headline performance of the evening came from locally born and raised musician Sarah Jaffe. Jaffe, who was opened for by Sam Lao, performed for more than 600 attendees, with the Granada Theater graciously donating a portion of the proceeds from the evening’s ticket sales to the Mayor’s Star Council.

How does this help Dallas?

Funds raised from that evening will be used by the Mayor’s Star Council operations fund, and will provide scholarships for many of the college-bound students in the Mayor’s Rising Star Council Leadership Academy. The MRSC includes students from a combination of five participating high schools in southern Dallas including Adamson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, South Oak Cliff, and Madison. 

Something new

MSC announced at the event that Neiman Marcus has signed on to be the first sponsor of the Bench Project. This is a joint venture between the MRSC Leadership Academy and the Dallas Area Rapid Transit agency, or DART. DART operates buses, light rail, commuter rail, and high-occupancy vehicle lanes in Dallas and 12 of its suburbs. Companies and individuals who sign on to sponsor a bench at a DART station support MRSC students who, alongside a local artist, come up with an artistic concept on a bench that will be located in historical locations throughout South Dallas and Downtown. Funds from the Bench Project support MSC operating funds.

What’s next for MSC?

Most Mayor’s Rising Star Council Leadership Academy students graduate from high school in southern Dallas this June. Many will go on to be first generation college students, and many have received numerous scholarships and are in the top 10 of their class. This August, MSC will also add a new class of diverse, young professionals. Are you interested in making a difference in the city of Dallas? Join us by applying no later than 5:00 PM on June 15th to have a voice in the future of this great city. 

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A better way to share dallas land bank data

Open Data is an emerging trend among municipalities and Texas cities have embraced it's tenets including City of Dallas with it's Dallas Open Data portal. There are Dallas datasets that haven't joined the portal yet and are making their way through the process. As affordable housing, poverty and blight continue to drive important discussions, one of the data sets that is prime for openness is Land Bank property data.

What is a Land Bank?
Land banking is a way to collect properties that are vacant, abandoned or owe five years in back taxes and the amount owed is greater than the value of the property. The goal is to get these properties back to a "taxable" state in the shortest time possible. A prospective purchaser would owe back fees and taxes on the property beyond the value of the property, making the sale of the property difficult. Many of these properties are unkept and in disrepair requiring the city to spend tax dollars to maintain them, which add additional liens to the property. Land bank organizations, through cities, will take ownership through County courts and hold or "bank" them. The City of Chicago has implemented a $1 Large Lots program which sells lots for $1 and requires new property owners to live on the same block as the lots.

In Dallas, Land Banks are owned and administered through the Dallas Housing Acquisition and Development Corporation (DHADC). To improve the understanding of this data we used Tabula to extract tables from the pdf, Microsoft Excel 2016 for cleanup and BatchGeo for mapping.

View Dallas Land Bank Properties - Jan 2016 in a full screen map

We hope this data can better visualize available land bank properties for future prospective owners and enhance the communities, particularly in Southern and South Dallas, to bring these properties and their neighborhoods back to a state of productivity and community ownership.

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MSC: A Look Back to Move Forward

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MSC: A Look Back to Move Forward

From the get-go, the mission of the Mayor’s Star Council spoke to my desire to meaningfully plug into the neighborhoods and issues that are imperative to building a strong future for our city. I wanted to be connected to similarly impassioned young professionals who seek a little less talk and a little more action. A group of people who understand that there are no limits to progress if you’re agnostic to who gets the credit, who are capable of servant leadership without ego. What I found during my year on MSC were some of the most incredible people I’ve met in Dallas, connections to the leaders on the ground in neighborhoods from downtown to Vickery Meadow to Oak Cliff to Lancaster Corridor and everywhere in between, and a stronger sense of the part I hope to play in finding solutions within our community.

Working with the Mayor’s Rising Star Council (MRSC), MSC’s leadership academy at five Southern Dallas DISD schools, has been incredibly rewarding – those kids give us more than we could ever give them, and watching their growth over the past year has been magical. This coming year, our first class of MRSC will be applying to college and graduating, many the first in their families to do so. To know this, and to hear these kids not just talking about undergrad, but about a future in law, public service and STEM shows us how trajectories and communities heal through one on one relationships. The impact is real and I am so proud of this organization’s dedication to the next generation. A great partnership for the MRSC seniors is with the Marcus Graham Project, who has developed a curriculum for high school students that will teach these young leaders how to creatively develop, create, tell the story, and execute a campaign that highlights their neighborhoods and their vision for their communities. It’s an amazing experience that will allow them to build skills and importantly, a portfolio of their work that can carry forward into their careers. We are grateful to the mission and leadership at MGP for giving the MRSC this opportunity.

As a young organization, there is great opportunity for continued evolution in MSC, we have the ability to be agile, adapt and shift course when needed. Each member of our four classes has had the ability to shape the next year, the next iteration of our mission. I am honored to serve as President of the 2015-16 class and my goal is to continue to provide avenues for awareness, engagement and empowerment to our current class and alumni network, that as a team, we can connect, learn and serve in our city. We look forward to serving alongside you on this journey. Stay tuned and stay present, this is an incredible time to be in Dallas.

Jen Sanders

MSC 2014-15, President 2015-16

 

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Get to Know: MSC Partner The Marcus Graham Project

This year, Mayor's Star Council is thrilled to be working with the Marcus Graham Project (MGP), a Dallas-based non-profit, co-founded by Lincoln Stephens and Larry Yarrell, who believe in the power of marketing BIG ideas.  Dallas, is certainly not a stranger to BIG ideas and BIG thinking.  MGP empowers young adults to think BIG each year with their iCR8 Summer Boot Camp, which trains young leaders with an interest in the advertising, media and marketing industry.  MGP has recently partnered with the Mayor's Rising Star Council (MRSC) to develop a similar experiential learning initiative for its high school seniors.   The program, officially launched a few weeks ago at the first meeting of the MRSC students this school year. These students will finish the program with real life experience creating, designing and executing a multi-faceted marketing campaign to highlight their communities, and a portfolio of work they can utilize in their future endeavors. The program is supported by a recent grant by the South Dallas - Fair Park Trust Fund and a matched donation by Microsoft. 

MGP will be holding their annual masquerade gala, Lavender Hill, in Dallas on October 31st.   MSC's own Trey Bowles, Founder of the Dallas Entrepreneur Center and the Mayor's Star Council, is serving on this year's host committee. The final date to reserve your seat at the table of change is 10/28.  We can say from experience that this is a great time for an amazing cause.

The event is sponsored by PepsiCo, Moet Hennessey and D CEO Magazine and will also honor MGP's outstanding board members, agency partners and alumni.  

Event Venue: Sixty Five Hundred 

6500 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75235

Saturday, October 31st at 7:00pm

Attite: Semi-Formal Masquerade

To RSVP please visit: http://lavenderhill2015.splashthat.com

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3 Lessons I Learned from MSC

If you’re reading this, you likely have a good idea what MSC (Mayor’s Star Council) is. In case you don’t, MSC is a 501c3 that focuses on bringing together young, passionate and diverse leaders from the City of Dallas with the purpose of having them learn about the City and find ways to engage – both with the City and one another.

As a member of the 3rd class of MSC (2014-2015), and newly minted alum, here are three lessons I learned from my experience in the organization:

1.     Dallas is filled with some remarkable people

STOP what you’re doing. Take a moment and look around. Seriously. Stop rolling your eyes, take a deep breath, briefly look around and think about the people who are around you – if you’re by yourself, just pop into a Dallas Public Library or head over to Klyde Warren Park. What battles have these people fought? What struggles are they currently going through? (Everyone has one). How did they wind up in Dallas? The City of Dallas is filled with some remarkable people. People who are somehow making our City, and our lives, better and we often have no idea they exist… 

People like Daron Babcock with Bonton Farms. In the middle of a successful career, he evaluated his heart and values and decided to move to a low socioeconomic location so he could serve others. It wasn’t long before he began Bonton Farms, an urban farm in the middle of an inner-city food desert where he also hires men with criminal records as a way to help them integrate back into society.

That’s what MSC taught me – that there are truly remarkable people in Dallas that care about making the City better (with no ulterior motive).

 

2.     Networking is dead. Genuine relationships are what count

Ughhhh... “networking”. Does anyone really think that works anymore? Honestly. Although “networking” may work 1 out of 100 times, the truth is that networking is dead. The only way to do good business, and to live a personally fulfilled life, is to volunteer or become an active member of an organization. Local organizations like the Mayor’s Star Council or Leadership Dallas are particularly special because they help us match our skills or passions to serve local areas in need alongside like-minded people. Spending one year volunteering with other leaders who share your values will go a lot further in business development and produce richer relationships than spending 60 minutes at one-off networking events once a week.

3.     “Dallas is boring?” Wait…WHAAAT?! 

I often hear it, “there’s nothing to do in Dallas”.  Sighhh… I sadly used to make the same wrong assumption. The fact is that the City of Dallas is filled with remarkable opportunities and things to do. Business wise, there are 21 Fortune 500 companies in Dallas/Fort Worth – whoa… Personally, there are MANY things to do in the City:

·         Join the Trinity River’s young professionals group – who often kayak the river

·         Spend time at Klyde Warren Park  and the Arts District

·         Visit Bonton Farms or volunteer to work one Saturday morning

·         Help make capes for children with chronic diseases at Capes 4 Kids

·         Check out an event at the historic Kessler Theatre

·         Spend time at Oak Cliff film festival  

·         Go to Deep Ellum and pop into the Deep Ellum Brewery

·         Volunteer to teach English at Vickery Meadow Learning Center

·         Visit Fair Park – other than during the State Fair

And these are just the first things that popped into my mind.

The fact is, there is a lot to do in Dallas and there are many wonderful opportunities and people to discover! We just have to open ourselves up to learning about our City and the Mayor’s Star Council is a special opportunity to learn about the City and get to meet some incredible people.

Paula.jpg

Paula Gean is a member of the 2014-15 Mayor's Star Council and the Director of Marketing at Dialexa, a tech firm that designs and engineers award-winning products across mobile, web, IoT and embedded device platforms. She belongs to the Global Shapers, an initiative of the World Economic Forum, is a 2014 Dallas Business Journal's Women in Technology awardee and dreams of bettering the world. Follow Paula on Twitter @Agean6.

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Thank You One and All for Helping to Celebrate Our Rising Stars!

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Thank You One and All for Helping to Celebrate Our Rising Stars!

Dallas has had a much needed wet spring thus far – the days leading up to the Fund Raiser on May 12th to celebrate our Rising Stars were no different. As the members of the Mayor’s Star Council were making final preparations for the Event, we began to wonder … will Mother Nature cooperate with us and allow the City to celebrate the youth from the local High Schools the MSC mentors?

The answer was a resounding – YES! Nearly 100 participants came by for the celebration at Souk Restaurant in the Trinity Groves.

Guests learned about the work from the students through descriptive panels from each of the 5 High Schools while enjoying Mediterranean appetizers and tasty libations.

The proceedings began with a vote of thanks to recent funders and board members – and continued with stories from MSC members about the benefits of the Council and impact of the Leadership Academy on the students the MSC mentors. A lucky winner won a suite to a Texas Rangers baseball game through the raffle held.

The Event brought together friends and well wishers, including MSC alums, community & corporate leaders, and Leadership Academy students. Regardless if it was the participants first time attending a MSC event or an active participant, the Fund Raiser was a prime example of achieving the Mission of the Mayor’s Star Council through Learning, Serving, and Connecting.

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These kids...

Almost two years ago, the Mayor's Star Council ventured out and committed to mentoring 30 sophomore students.  When you see "30 students" you immediately think this is going to be something really surface level.  Something we cannot truly commit to.  We will give it our best, but can't guarantee this is really sustainable. 

Then you meet them.  30 students.  They might not look like me.  They may not be raised in the same way I was.  But they absolutely have a heart that beats in the same way mine does, and they have forever stolen my heart.  

Last year the Mayor's Star Council again committed to mentoring 30 students, 6 students from 5 south Dallas schools; Adamson, South Oak Cliff, Madison, Roosevelt and Lincoln.  We went in anticipating that we would pour our entire lives into their life for one year, graduate them and start over with the next class of sophomores.  Well, a year later we have 30 juniors and 30 sophomores, engaged as ever and not going anywhere.  We even went as far as to have a graduation ceremony for the sophomores (now juniors) and they still begged for us to stay…so we did. 

The only way I know to share the story of Mayor's Rising Star Council (MRSC) is to share the many things they have taught me (in order of sappiness).  

(1) KIK – yeah, it's an app.  One where you can talk (until ALL hours of the morning) on group text with one another.  I had to come up with a creative name (I think it's christielynn) and then they could message me, even if their phone service was turned off…as long as there was wifi.  I sometimes have to remind them that I am old and they need to stop texting so I can go to sleep… 

(2) There are so many words that are now "cool" that I can't even begin to pronounce

(3) High Schoolers are easy to love, they just want you to pay them some attention 

(4) Students, do not want to be known for the stereotype the city gives them…they want to be asked who they are and THEY want to tell you who they are

(5) Neighborhoods and schools can change, when you give students the opportunity to show you how

(6) MRSC kids have pride in their communities, they sometimes just need someone to guide them to the why and how…once they figure it out, you better watch out, they will blow you away

(7) They get "it".  Better than I ever did.  I am envious for what they have learned and know.  Their wisdom is pure and thoughtful.  They genuinely understand the challenges and are willing to create solutions, even if they are difficult. 

(8) If you empower students, they will speak boldly.  This is my favorite story.  Recently, we took students to a debate where "adults" were talking about City of Dallas politics.  One of the questions was DIRECTLY about GrowSouth and the impact it is having on the city.  Two of the adults answered in a way that was offensive to the students.  I was standing across the room and one of the students texted me (which I still have saved) and said, "Ms. Christie, they are talking about us…but they've never been to our neighborhood…they don't know.  If it were not for GrowSouth, we wouldn't be where we are today."  After the debate, the students, together, went and talked respectfully to each person and INVITED them to attend their next MRSC meeting so they could better understand what GrowSouth has done for them and how they have experienced opportunities they would have otherwise not experienced.  I have tears rolling down my cheek recalling the story because IT IS EXACTLY why we started out on this journey.  To teach students and empower them to speak out about who they really are and how they can be leaders of change.  

(9) These kids have become my brothers and sisters.  When I first started this journey, I was talking with one of the Dallas ISD Executive Directors and my voice was laced with fear.  I didn't look like these kids and was not sure what I could offer them.  I didn't know anything about where they were from or the challenges they experienced.  I am almost embarrassed by my fear.  The ED took his hand and reached out to my right shoulder, looked me dead in the eyes and said "Christie, these kids don't care what you look like or what you have experienced in life.  They care that you are entering their community.  So stand up and pour your life into them."  I did just that.  Today, I cried reading texts from them of their gratefulness for MRSC and for the commitment we have given them. 

(10) There are 159,000 other kids.  We have done a great job with 60 kids.  But it's not enough.  There are still 159,000 other Dallas ISD kids who need people to just simply care.  It is up to others to take the charge and start making a difference…might I just remind you, these kids ARE OUR FUTURE. 

Forever changed because of MRSC.

- Christie Myers - 

 

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Help The MSC Support Youth Mentorship and Civic Engagement

As the academic school year starts to draw to a close, the Mayor’s Star Council is celebrating our Rising Stars – the group of youth from several Dallas High Schools the Council mentors.

Many of the Council members will say that we have learned just as much (if not more) from the experience of working with these students than the students learned from us – if these youth are indicative of our future, our future is looking bright!

To celebrate this work and support these emerging leaders, the Mayor’s Star Council is hosting a fundraiser. All are welcome to attend and if you are interested in helping to make a difference in the lives of our youth, we invite your participation in this event. While there is no charge for registration, there are limited tickets available.

Our Rising Star students come from several of Dallas’ High Schools, including Adamson, Roosevelt, South Oak Cliff, Lincoln, and Madison.

Here are the key event details:

When:                     Tuesday, May 12, 2015 – 630pm to 830pm

Where:                                     Souk Restaurant at Trinity Groves

                                                      3011 Gulden Ln Suite 114, Dallas, TX 75212

How to RSVP:     Please pre-register HERE.

Thank you for your support as we celebrate the future of our City!

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Making Heroes, One Cape at a Time

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Making Heroes, One Cape at a Time

On April 11th from 12:30-4:30, the Mayor’s Star Council is teaming up with Union Coffee, Common Desk and Lover’s Lane United Methodist Church to run the largest cape-making factory in Capes 4 Kids history. The event will happen at Common Desk in Deep Ellum and all are welcome to participate.

Capes 4 Kids got its start out of Union Coffee where, once a month, they transform a coffee shop into a cape-making factory. 50-60 volunteers crank out as many kid-sized capes as they can. Afterwards, teams of costumed volunteers put the capes on the backs of children in area pediatric hospitals. Recently, Capes 4 Kids was asked to put capes on the backs of pediatric beneficiaries of the Make a Wish Foundation who were running in a fundraising 5k. With an increasing number of requests like these, Capes 4 Kids approached the Mayor’s Star Council and other organizations about putting together a mega factory to sew, trace, cut and iron 150 capes in one afternoon.

A cape is a powerful thing. It’s a symbol of not only the power to make a difference, but also the calling to do something good with what has been given to you. Heroes wear capes. When we put capes on the backs of children with chronic illnesses, we’re empowering them to defeat villains like cancer, heart disease and epilepsy. Beyond that, we’re challenging them to be heroes outside of the hospital as well. Every now and then, we hear from parents who tell us how much the cape means to their children. Several nurses have said that it makes them better patients.

When Trey Bowles gave me a Mayor’s Star Council pin, he may as well have given me a cape. Knowing that I’ve been recognized by someone else for my ability to make a difference is empowering in a way that calls me to action. Wearing that pin gives me a sense of responsibility for this city that I can no longer tell myself I’m ill-equipped to impact. I’m a better citizen of Dallas as a result of that pin.

Whether it’s with capes or pins, imagine the impact it could have on the city if we were all just a little bit better at empowering one another, encouraging one another and calling out the superheroes we see just beneath the surface of a friend, co-worker or acquaintances face. I think that’s why the Mayor’s Star Council and Capes 4 Kids make such easy partners.

All are welcome to come out to Common Desk on April 11th and help turn children into superheroes. For information about future volunteer events, you can also check Capes 4 Kids volunteer page.

 

Rev. Mike Baughman
Community Curator, Union Coffee
Member, Mayor’s Star Council

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Hunger Busters

On Thursday February 19, 2015 Hunger Busters held its first awareness event of the year. Hunger Busters was created in 2000 by Phil Romano and was designed to feed the homeless in Dallas.  In 2007 the mission evolved to feed DISD students of low-income status.  Currently, Hunger Busters serves 890 meals a day feeding five schools and three afterschool programs in West Dallas. 

At the event, notable Dallas leaders came to speak to the 180 individuals about education, the changing political landscape and the development of businesses in West Dallas.  The speakers were Superintendent Mike Miles, Deputy Mayor Monica Alonzo (District 6 rep), Principal Ramirez of John H Reagan, Charles English president of the Boys and Girls club, Robert Shaw- Real Estate Developer, City Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates and Phil Romano.

Each speaker emphasized the importance of investing in local communities and their programs.  “We need a community that cares about the success of students, even if they don’t have children”, said Mike Miles. The event was moving enough that a local waiter, Larry Richardson, from Trinity Groves asked to speak.  In his remarks he focused on the decreasing crime rate over the past year and how Hunger Busters has helped feed kids in his own neighborhood. Mr. Richardson was touched by the efforts of Hunger Busters that he made an onsite donation.  

A face in the crowd was Guadalupe Sanchez, a senior at SMU majoring in Mechanical Engineering. She was inspired by the speakers and was very grateful there are people who care about their community enough to put forth an effort. “I only hope that I am able to make a difference for  students when I grow older, just as these people are doing for the West Dallas community”.

This successful event brought people of different economic and education backgrounds came together for the sole purpose of finding of way to alleviate hunger among the young children of the DISD District.

              

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Halftime Update with the MSC

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Halftime Update with the MSC

It's January of 2015, and while the calendar has reset itself entirely and we've just now begun getting use to writing '15 instead of '14, the Mayor's Star Council is beginning the second half of our year. We definitely have that second semester feel where you take everything you've learned in the fall and hope to compress it into the spring. Looking back, we've certainly learned a lot. And, while there might be a light at the end-of-tunnel somewhere, it's masked by the sense of urgency we all feel to get greater things done, and build upon the relationships and knowledge we've gained. For both MSC and myself, it's been a great first half.

While we still carry that start-up mentality and approach, it's clear we must ensure that who we are and what we do is sustainable. I came in wanting to put my own little spin on the year, and while it's been productive we also need to make strides to build a structure that can be passed from one class to another. Our programming continues to be the most substantial piece of our mission and we've learned that everyone comes to the table with a different perspective and set of skills. Our meetings have been both informative and inspirational, and as one MSC member said, "It's like drinking from a firehose."

At the same time, there's this amazing group of high school kids, whose lives we are a part of and there's no looking back. The relationships that are being developed with the Mayor's Rising Star Council are amazing. And, we know that there is still so much that we can do together. We've learned some incredible things from them, their passion in doing the little things well and their ambitions within their own schools and communities. These kids continue to put things in perspective for us, taking something as complex and large as the GrowSouth initiative and repackaging it in a way that, sometimes, is as simple as a conversation or help with an essay question, or a ride home after school.

In addition to those great things about MSC and our MRSC kids, there's plenty more out there that we now know. We've learned that some of our members play some great defense in kickball (10-6 win vs. D Academy, Booyah!), and that race relations weigh extremely heavy on many of our hearts. We've learned that civic progress can come in the form of a TIF grant in Southern Dallas, a coat drive in Vickery Meadow, or a small business hanging on in Oak Cliff. We've been inspired by teachers, council members and community residents, but not in what they do, but why they do it. We've learned that depth of a conversation is just as important as who the conversation is with, usually more. Heck, a couple of us have even learned what Kik is and that students don't use Facebook, like ever.

It has been a pleasure to work alongside the class of 2014-2015, twenty six emerging leaders who I intend to stay in touch with well after the second half ends. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to meet some of the brightest, and more importantly, the most passionate social and civic players in Dallas. For several years we've often joked that it's the same people in every civic/social/education/make-Dallas-better meeting or conference. And, while there are always familiar faces doing great things, there are people in this city you don't see or hear from. That's because they're too busy grinding away for their community, school, families, neighbors and city. And many of those people are right here as representatives of this year's MSC class.

David Higbee | President & Kickball Head Coach for MSC 2014-2015

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2014-15 Mayor's Rising Star Council is off and running...

Be Active, Be Engaged, Be Committed…And Have Fun!

The official retreat/kick-off of the 2014-2015 Mayor's Rising Star Council took place on Saturday, November 1 at the University of North Texas Dallas campus. This day's event had a twofold mission, continue to foster the relationship with the Mayor's Rising Star Council Alumni from the 2013-2014 class and engage and equip the newly selected Mayor's Rising Star Council high schoolers with the necessary information to start them on the path of becoming leaders in their schools and larger community. Between team building activities, identifying goals, expectations, and common interests, there was even time for the MRSC students to teach the Mayor's Star Council the NaeNae (a dance made popular earlier this year).

The day began with breakfast and a MRSC Alumni Student Panel which included 4 students from different high schools (Madison, Roosevelt, South Oak Cliff, and Adamson). Attendees were able to hear about their experience with MRSC last year, the best thing they learned while a part of the program and any advice for the new MRSC and MSC class members. Be active, be engaged, and be committed were some of the thoughts that were shared during this time of reflection and seem to be the common thread for both the MRSC and the MSC class.

As breakfast had given us an opportunity to meet many of the students we would be working with over the next year for the first time, the lunch break provided us an opportunity to continue to form our bonds with the MRSC alumni and current class students. I was able to chat with Breon from South Oak Cliff High School. He shared with me his experience on the Mock Trial team at school and I was able to catch a glimpse of his amazing talents, abilities, and passion.

As lunch came to an end, the agenda was back underway with another breakout session. We did a few more team building exercises and had a great conversation with the current MRSC class about some volunteer/service ideas. Sparked by a question and interest from one of the students from Madison inquiring about having the opportunity to feed the homeless during this school year, the MRSC students began to do a brainstorming session that included other volunteer/service ideas such as: restoring an old building, having a clothes and blanket drive, doing a fundraiser for kids that are in the hospital, volunteering at an animal shelter, greeting military personnel at the airport, and making cards for the elderly in nursing homes. The ideas of being active, being engaged, and being committed were evident in all of the suggestions we received from the MRSC students.

As this brainstorming session concluded and we moved into more teambuilding exercises there was truly a sense of purpose and commitment in the room. The MRSC students were inspiring in their desire to make a positive impact in their communities. This brainstorming session was organic in the sense that the MRSC students took the initiative to begin suggesting ways in which they wanted to impact their communities. As the MRSC students began to suggest volunteer/service ideas the MSC members were also discussing ways in which we could bring these ideas to light and assist the students in their desire to positively impact their communities.

The day ended with each of the MRSC members signing a commitment banner and taking a group photo. From 9am - 5pm on a Saturday members of both the MRSC and MSC were active, engaged, committed, and having fun. I left exhausted but above all I left with great expectations of things to come. 

- Joli Robinson - 

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2014 - 2015 Mayor's Star Council class sets focus on the development of young student leaders

Each member of the 2014-2015 Mayor’s Star Council (MSC) class joined this civic-minded organization for their respective reason(s), however the common thread, tying our class together lies in our unequivocal commitment to service and to the city of Dallas. Over the course of the next 12 months our class will collectively immerse themselves in a variety of service-oriented endeavors – most notably, the “MSC Project.” In short, the “MSC Project” is a continuation of the capstone project introduced by the original MSC classes, which specifically, focuses on developing and cultivating a group of young student leaders from five high schools located within the Mayor’s GrowSouth initiative (Adamson, Roosevelt, Madison, South Oak Cliff, Lincoln). This group of nearly 30 sophomore student leaders, from across the five GrowSouth campuses, is selected through an application process, to form, The Mayor’s Rising Star Council (MRSC). While assuming a number of responsibilities, the primary function of the MRSC is to work alongside the MSC class to define and implement a culminating project that not only builds their leadership capacity, but also allows the MRSC to connect with and better understand their local communities through the creation of a tangible deliverable.

As the 2014-2015 Project Committee launches its 2014-2015 campaign, we are most excited about building on the strength and momentum of past MRSC classes. Now in its third year, the MSC has been able to foster and facilitate the development of two incredible MRSC classes. These past classes will now serve as ambassadors and alumni not only to the upcoming MRSC class, but also as MRSC ambassadors within the context of their respective schools and local communities.

Over the course of the last several weeks’ the MSC Project Committee has started meeting with school leadership from the GrowSouth schools in an effort to develop a MRSC recruitment strategy as well as identify key points of contacts at each school. In our early meetings with school leadership, the positive impact the MRSC program has had within the schools is clearly evident. This impact is primarily the result of the strong relationship’s earlier MSC classes have formed with school leaders – an aspect (relationship building), which our committee will certainly continue to perpetuate during our efforts this year.

Both the importance and difficulty of the nature of the work that lie ahead of our group is humbling. With that said, the collective opportunity we, the MSC, are afforded in working with a unique group such as the MRSC to create something of value for the city of Dallas, serves as one of the primary reasons we each committed to this organization. In the next month, the MSC Project Committee will release the 2014-2015 MRSC application to students, select our 2014-2015 MRSC class, engage the larger MSC group with the MSC Project and Project Calendar, and continue to build awareness of the MRSC throughout the GrowSouth schools and their communities.

The power of this MSC Project exists in its collaborative nature. We truly have a blank piece of paper in front of us – and we look forward to what we are able to collectively design for the betterment of the city of Dallas. 

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My southern Dallas speaks for itself, Chequan Lewis writes

This morning, many of us reading the Dallas Morning News woke up to a wonderful op-ed by fellow MSC member, Chequan Lewis.

If I had a dollar for every opinion about southern Dallas seen on these pages, I might crawl out from under my pile of student debt. If I had a quarter for every comment spewed about the past, present, or future of southern Dallas, I might fix every pothole in the city.

When it comes to southern Dallas, expert problem-finders abound, but problem-solvers are a rare breed. This sad story is not unique to our city’s southern half. Public discourse on American urban centers has always featured an obsession with diagnosis over treatment. Dallas must be better.

In Dallas, where “big things happen,” we cannot afford to digest more of this stale thinking on either side of the Trinity River. Some see southern Dallas as a problem to be solved while others see an opportunity for growth. No matter which side of this issue or the river you stand on, it is imperative to actually engage southern Dallas and all of its contours and complexities. From Wynnewood Hills, which is my neighborhood, to Singing Hills, from Mountain Creek to Cedar Crest, my southern Dallas is not a monolithic landmass of corruption or groupthink. It is not the reduction lurking in news segments and comment sections.

A snapshot of my slice of southern Dallas would paint a different picture. It would reveal a proud neighborhood — accented by midcentury homes, mature oaks and manicured lawns — that once hosted the Byron Nelson Classic. It would catch my next-door neighbors’ visiting grandson in his superhero cape, saving our street from monsters only he can see. It would show another neighbor introducing himself to someone painting my house; he knows I’m never home during the workday and considers it his neighborly duty to make sure the job is done right. It also would find a young family of four walking two dogs down their new street, the parents smiling and waving to neighbors of various races and ages.

My neighborhood is not unique, though. I’ve found that southern Dallas is a network of charming communities and inviting neighbors. It is a canvas painted by some of the city’s finest topography and some of its most eclectic food. It is a home where my fiancée and I look forward to building our family. It is a place with well-documented challenges, but these are outpaced by its untold promise. This promise lures singles and families to neighborhoods throughout southern Dallas.

We know that promise, alone, will not carry the day. Neither will raw opportunity. As Maya Angelou reminded us, “nothing will work unless you do.” We are working.

An army of naysayers deludes itself into thinking that shortcomings in leadership, both perceived and real, tell the entire story of an area’s underdevelopment and under-resourcing. A band of historians — armed with the gift and curse of a long memory — tries to shout them down.

All the while, the fullest potential of my southern Dallas drowns in a sea of interminable chatter. It is time to send these old heavyweights to their corners for good. Not because each side is equally culpable (they are not), not because the past is a poor teacher (it is not), but because the stakes are too high to continue keeping score. We must end debates that are devoid of solutions.

My southern Dallas is ready to trade in the barbs and the bitterness for something better: serious and honest thought aimed at developing serious action plans. Criticism that conflates all southern Dallas leadership should not be credited as serious thinking. Neither should ill-informed or dishonest assessments of what that leadership has delivered. In fact, any thoughts that only assess the quality of “traditional leadership” are not serious enough either. This brand of thinking turns a blind eye to the ideas that emanate from dinner tables, PTA meetings and grocery store aisles all over southern Dallas. One need not look exclusively to politicians or the pulpit to see leadership in action.

In my southern Dallas, we are building more vibrant neighborhood associations focused on improving the citizen experience one block at a time. In my southern Dallas, residents are role models for neighborhood kids and sources of compassion to those marginalized by the policies or institutions or even choices that failed them. In my southern Dallas, we are having solution-oriented conversations about innovative tax policy, responsible growth and smart zoning that is faithful to the area’s character and realistic about the market demands of capital.

This is my southern Dallas. This is my neighbors’ southern Dallas. This is our southern Dallas. It is aspirational, but it is also becoming more of a reality each day. It can be yours, too, if you are ready to join the collective project of community building. God knows the time for tearing down has long passed.

Chequan Lewis | MSC Member 2014-2015

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My Walkable Dallas

Eight years ago I decided to move to Dallas and with that came many changes for me. The first of which was selling my car. Seems like a bold thing to do when moving to a car-loving Texas city, right? Hear me out.  I knew that there were at least some neighborhoods where I could walk around and if I ever needed to go any further, I could use the public transit system, which – while not as advanced many other cities in the U.S. – was light years ahead of where I was leaving. I mean, there’s a train for goodness sake!  Maybe it was bold, maybe it was plain naïve, or maybe I’m just that stubborn and was hell-bent on being a pedestrian-and-public-transit-savvy urbanite.

Photo by Alan McKenzie

Photo by Alan McKenzie

When you think about the city structure of Dallas, you probably don’t think of pedestrian-friendly areas, bustling sidewalks and bike lanes, city plazas and urban parks.  In fact, you probably think of massive highways and traffic.  Oh the traffic.  I know this is the perception, I’ve always known this, but still I see the potential for a walkable Dallas. 

Walkability is a hot issue in Dallas – one that has increased in relevance recently, it seems.  For people living in and near the heart of the city, suburban and even urban sprawl is no longer desirable and there is more of an inclination to generate connectivity in and between communities, making accessibility a priority over vehicular convenience.  Our pedestrian unfriendliness was even noted by an out of town guest speaker during June’s New Cities Summit, which caught the eye of many and spurred some intriguing responses. Walkable Dallas noted that “Those things tend to happen when the most powerful transportation official thinks infrastructure responds to land use (rather than vice versa) and that urban design is about decorating the fringe around transportation decisions already made,” an observation more and more apparent throughout our fair city.

Photo by Alan McKenzie

Photo by Alan McKenzie

This issue has been a focal point of many recent efforts in Dallas proper. There has been much buzz around a proposal to tear down I-345, creating a stronger connection between Downtown and Deep Ellum. More recently, the proposal of building a Sam’s Club near CityPlace has caught the attention of neighbors and they have rallied to stop this development by any means possible.  The Sam’s Club was proposed to the city under an apparent ruse of building an “East Village,” presumably creating cohesion with Uptown’s West Village, ultimately creating a flourishing, accessible community that would essentially tie the two neighborhoods together.  On July 11th the East Village Neighborhood Association heralded a small but impactful victory when the judge issued a temporary restraining order on the project for at least two weeks.

In addition to individual instances, the neighborhoods of Deep Ellum, Farmers Market and Cedars have joined forces to be better heard at City Hall, ultimately creating a better downtown community.  This resonates with me, as I am a longtime fan and current resident of Deep Ellum.  Since moving to Dallas in 2006, I’ve lived in Lakewood, Downtown, Oak Lawn and Midway Hollow – I finally feel at home in Deep Ellum.  I feel a sense of community; there are vocal activists, friendly neighbors, business owners, artists…and yes, walkability.  I realize this is not the only neighborhood in Dallas with these traits, and I love and admire the others in this realm, but Deep Ellum holds a special place in my heart, the same way Oak Cliff, Lower Greenville, Cedars, Downtown and others feel about their neighborhoods.  The most vital part of making a city more walkable and accessible is the people. Because, you can build the infrastructure – the sidewalks, bike lanes, parks, plazas, etc. – but without the people, it’s just a bunch of urban space with stuff that nobody uses.  So as Dallas attempts to move toward more walkable communities, the residents these areas need to express their pride in their neighborhood and voice their drive for change in their community.  

For the record, I did give in and buy my (second ever) car about three years ago.  Most of the time I use it for road trips and treks across town, save for rainy days.  I try to commute to work on bike or foot, a mere .7 miles door to door.  When approached today and over the years with questions and statements of “Why?” or “I don’t know how you go without a car!” or “How do you do that?” or even “That’s just not something I could do…” my response is easy: This is what I want. So this is what I do. You want change? BE it. 

- Stephanie Norsworthy | MSC 2013-2014

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Poverty Sucks!

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About 3 years ago, CitySquare, an organization that’s been fighting the causes and effects of poverty since 1988 (and for which I am proud to work), designed a shirt with the phrase “Poverty Sucks.”  We knew that statement could be off-putting to some, but on behalf of the neighbors we serve, we needed to make a bold statement about the state of poverty in Dallas.  The statistics are alarming- 23% of people in Dallas live below the poverty line, 1 in 3 African Americans and Hispanics in Dallas live in poverty, and Dallas residents are more likely to be impoverished than in any of America’s 20 biggest cities except for Memphis, Philadelphia, and Detriot. We’ve known for a long time that we must DO something.

Mayor Rawlings is answering the call to action for the City of Dallas.  He announced the formation of the Mayor’s Task Force on Poverty in February and appointed Larry James, President and CEO of CitySquare, to lead the task force.  The task force has a cabinet that consists of business, community, academic, and civic leaders who are all involved and concerned about poverty in Dallas.  Mayor Rawlings challenged the task force with finding short- term, substantive actions that the city can take to tackle poverty.  The task force decided to have a large ideation event to gather over 200 people to help the task force with their recommendations for Mayor Rawlings.

The ideation event was held on May 29th at Paul Quinn College in southern Dallas with about 230 attendees.  Mayor’s Star Council was invited to have a role in the event where many of us volunteered and participated in small group discussions.  The energy and excitement about solving this daunting problem was palpable as small groups discussed everything from racial equity to education to transportation as they relate to poverty.  By the end of the morning, each small group (there were about 22 groups of 8-15 people) presented solutions to the audience that the task force will consider in their 5-6 recommendations they will present to Mayor Rawlings. 

We left the ideation event feeling like we could not only conquer poverty in Dallas, but across the nation!  But the harsh reality is that poverty sucks and will until Dallas comes up with a long term, comprehensive solution to the problem.  One thing I have learned from my friendships with our homeless neighbors, is that even in poverty, there is hope.  This task force initiative, like any other new initiative, has its dissenters, but we must start somewhere. Getting over 200 people from different industries, perspectives, religious beliefs, backgrounds, and parts of the city to southern Dallas to propose solutions is not a shabby start.  I am hopeful that we are moving in the right direction. 

Jarie Bradley | MSC 2013-2014

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Why Kids? And Why are They Giving Back to Their Communities?

The first time I walked into an Urban School was the Spring of 2011.  I had just moved to Dallas from Flushing, MI (just outside of Flint and yes I have heard every joke about the name) and started work with the Dallas Regional Chamber in their education space.  When I thought of education, I thought of my own experience.  Four elementary schools feeding into one Junior High which fed into one High School.  I was able to go on field trips, I learned on a computer, I had hands-on learning opportunities and I had a world of options when it came to extracurricular activities.  Little did I know, that was not the norm. 

Schools looked different.  They felt different.

This began my love for public education.  I couldn’t read enough about urban schools and what they needed to succeed.  I spent time in Austin listening to policy behind public education.  I spent time in the classroom learning about these students and what they thought they needed to achieve their goals.

Then to be asked to consider applying for Mayor Star Council so that I can further impact education? Absolutely!

Our 2013-2014 class is almost complete, but the number of things we have been able to accomplish as a team are humbling.  For me, I serve on the Project Committee, where we decided to commit to a project that would be sustainable and life changing for the students involved.  Little did I know the planning and work would bring such reward.

As a Project Committee, we decided to develop a leadership training program for Sophomore students who wanted to do something more than just be in a leadership class.  We wanted students who may not otherwise receive an opportunity like this.  We wanted students who saw true value in their neighborhoods, they just needed some support and resources to make change happen.  We wanted students who were committed to Dallas and wanted to be leaders of change in their schools and communities. 

Starting with five high schools, South Oak Cliff, Madison, Lincoln, Adamson and Roosevelt, we asked students to apply to participate.  The applications we received were heartfelt and were writing samples of students who truly desired change in their communities and wanted to be leaders in the developments. 

Since, we have meet bi-monthly since the end of January teaching students about their communities, what it means to be a leader and why they are already leaders, even if they don’t recognize it yet.  Students participated in a neighborhood clean-up where they had to rally up students to go clean a neighborhood, on a Saturday morning, that wasn’t even theirs!  100+ students later, we had two neighborhoods cleaned and a change in prospective for a number of those who participated. 

Now, we are on to our community projects.  Students have been tasked with identifying challenges in their communities and tangible ways to help alleviate the barriers. 

Enter: Lauren (sans the Michigan accent). I would like to continue at this point in the story to discuss these community projects. Like Christie, I too have long been passionate about education. Dating back to 2008, this love has evolved into a specific interest in the external factors outside the school day such as community and family that actually end up not being external at all.

With a student’s academic performance being heavily dependent on experiences outside of the classroom, why not take the curriculum beyond the last bell of the day and outside the front doors? Our students are being educated in every moment of their lives, absorbing what they hear, see and experience that will mold them into who they will become.

With the Mayor’s Rising Star Council, we are hoping to be one more educator to open the window of choice and knowledge, specifically when it comes to their communities. Not just teaching an assessment of “what is wrong with our neighborhood?” but rather taking the approach of, “who are we?” and “what do we strive to become?”

This is exactly what the 2014 MRSC class has been able to discover as they worked towards completing their very own grant proposal for their community project. A discovery of debate, teamwork, community engagement and bright ideas ranging from a food and clothing pantry to an Arts Festival to a t-shirt campaign to an Academic Pep Rally to a historic sculpture project. All student created and student designed. This next month, the MSC team will award funding to support one of these ideas for the capstone community project to be implemented by the students over the summer in all 5 South Dallas neighborhoods.

The lesson of the day? When we are educated we become aware. When we are aware, we can create change. A change from within that begins with the education known as everyday life to our students. At MSC, we’re just providing the curriculum and handling roll call ;)

Lauren Sanderson and Christie Myers | 2013-2014 MSC Members

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