Making Schools Cool in a High-Crime Dallas Area

Adult supporters cheer arrival of students at South Oak Cliff High School

The hallway was jammed with community leaders on the first day of class at South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas for a rousing student welcome intended to keep the kids in school and out of trouble.

"There's different people in the hallway and they show you where to go so I feel really good," said student T'nia Valentine.

SOC is in the 75216 zip code, one of the highest crime areas of Dallas.

"We have high expectations for our students. We need to teach them what high expectations look like," said SOC Principal Willie Johnson. "We want them to understand there is a safe place they can enter every single day."

The community leaders include ministers, educators and a group called "Black Men Care."

Former Dallas Municipal Court Judge Victor Lander is a Black Men Care leader. He said the group was formed to help kids but also to urge adults to take responsibility for solving community problems.

"When we see crime and problems in the community, when we see the murders and things like that, it's on our shoulders to make a difference," Lander said.

Reverend Horace Bradshaw, a long time SOC supporter, said the adults were there to make the kids feel great on the first day of school.

"That's the whole point, to let them know that we know that they can achieve, that they can do good, and if they need to talk to somebody, they can talk to us," Bradshaw said.

Violence is all around these students.

"Unfortunately, I've lost a couple of people to those incidents," said SOC Junior Floyd Green. "I lost a cousin early in the year, last year, due to a shooting."

Instead of violence, the students were talking about different subjects Monday.

"I like history," Green said. "I like to learn about stuff that happened in the past."

SOC Community liaison Derrick Battie said support from the adults does not end on the first day of school.

"We want the violence to stop. These gentlemen are here to say there are other alternatives for you outside of the streets and violence," Battie said. "We are all excited about educating kids. That's the way out of poverty and away from gun violence."

The Principal said SOC has achieved several academic distinctions the past two years despite the many challenges faced by its students outside of school.

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