We’re all familiar with the proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”, right? Well, the city of Dallas, Texas is certainly taking those words to heart this month. After Billy Earl Dade Middle School posted a call-out for mentors for its male students, over 600 men from around the city showed up to serve at the school’s first-ever “Breakfast with Dad” event.
I can tell you as a local Texan that South Dallas is generally regarded as an area to avoid. Like most large cities, this Texas hub has upscale areas and undesirable areas, and South Dallas has a reputation as the latter.
During the planning process for Breakfast with Dad, school administrators identified the need for 50-100 mentors to attend. Some of the students’ fathers wouldn’t attend the breakfast and the boys’ request for mentors sent a powerful message.
“Mentorship is not an easy thing for a young student to ask for,” principal Tracie Washington told the Dallas Morning News. “But about 150 students requested a mentor.”
The Breakfast with Dad event is part of Dade’s efforts to give their students the best possible educational experience, despite being in a zip code that gets a bad rap. In fact, more than three years ago, this school was one of the worst-performing middle schools in its district. But the school has since turned their ranking around by asking for help from the community.
The administrators wanted to give the students a large, diverse of positive role models, and the men of the greater Dallas area rallied. Of the 600 men who showed up, there were dads from various parts of Dallas, local law enforcement officials, community leaders, and men from all walks of life, including members of the Texas Army National Guard and even a local auctioneer!
These volunteers talked to the boys about their jobs, answered questions, and participated in a hands-on activity that taught the boys how to tie a neck tie. Some of these boys may not have a male role model in their home. Some of them may have dads that weren’t able to get the morning off work to attend an event at school. Either way, thanks to the outpouring of support from the men in the community, every boy had someone there for them at Breakfast with Dad.
“If I were in the place of these men,” one volunteer told the Dallas Morning News. “I would want someone to step up.”
His 600-strong cadre of fellow volunteers say this gentleman is not alone. The school anticipates that community involvement will continue through weekly and monthly mentoring opportunities.
While this story makes my heart happy, I couldn’t help but wonder how I’d respond if a call for female mentors came from a school in an area of my city that I felt was dicey, or that I had no personal connection to. I’d like to say I’d go without hesitation, but I’m not sure I’d be completely honest there.
I do know these Dallas area men are an inspiration to people in cities all around the world. One attendee described the response to Dade Middle School’s Breakfast with Dad as “What Dallas needs.” But I think we all need this. Look around your city and I bet you’ll find a place where mentorship might be lacking where your time and talents could make a difference for a child who shouldn’t be defined by their zip code.
It takes a village to raise a child, and there are 600 men in Dallas, Texas who are taking that sentiment to heart. Right now might be the perfect time to ask yourself what you can do. I know I’m certainly asking myself that now.