Dallas ISD Students Commit to UT Dallas and the Jindal School on ‘Signing Day’

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(From left) Giovanny Lopez, Jason Manzala, Mike Campos and Oscar Urrutia make up the initial cohort of the Jindal Young Scholars Program.

Four seniors from the Dallas Independent School District became the initial cohort of the Jindal Young Scholars Program on May 4 when they visited The University of Texas at Dallas for “Signing Day” activities in which they committed to enroll in the University’s Naveen Jindal School of Management.

Mike Campos, Giovanny Lopez and Jason Manzala, all seniors at the School of Business and Management at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center; and Oscar Urrutia, a senior at W.T. White, signed pledges to enroll for the fall 2018 semester. The Townview students will major in finance, while Urritia’s chosen undergraduate program will be global business.

Each of the students will receive four years of financial grant aid that will cover any unmet needs after federal, state and institutional financial assistance has been awarded.

That fact did not go unnoticed by Michele Broughton, principal at Townview, who smiled as she watched her students sign their commitments at the Jindal School event.

“The work we do every day is to get students to this exact point — this exact moment,” Broughton said. “To be able to defy the odds, find the right opportunities and do it at no cost to the families — we’re rewriting futures, and I’m overjoyed.”

She acknowledged the pioneering role that her students will face as three-quarters of the first Jindal Young Scholars Program — JYSP — cohort.

“They’re going to be able to set the pace and do it well; they’re excellent students,” she said. “I expect that they will be the role models for the kids who will be following them. This program is setting a new tone for education and showing that there are possibilities to do it differently.”

Billy Schewee, director of JYSP, had spent the previous 12 months putting the program in place and recruiting the initial cohort.

“I’m excited for these young men,” he said.” I’m proud to be a part of this program that provides this kind of opportunity and excited that this became a reality.”

Campos felt excited but also determined to complete the task he and his fellow scholars had set for themselves.

“I’m ready to do it overall,” he said. “Everybody here had to do a whole lot of work just to get to this position. There’s nothing that’s going to keep us from continuing that work in college.”

After the signing ceremony, Lopez was trying to process the experience and said he felt a bit overwhelmed at the thought of having earned scholarship assistance for four years and a stipend. When asked what he would say to incoming freshmen in Dallas ISD high schools about pursuing the program, he found himself on firmer footing. He credited his parents for teaching him the work ethic he needed to succeed and offered the same advice to those who would follow him.

“If you put in the effort and work hard, it will pay off in the long run,” he said.

Often having studied late into the night, Manzala felt a sense of accomplishment. He was quick to give his parents credit for having supported him and instilled in him a work ethic.

In another show of support, Manzala’s father, mother, sister and grandmother attended Signing Day with him.

“We tried to mentor him — tell him what’s good for him and what’s the best to go with,” said his father, Edmund. “We taught him to be his own man and be mindful for what he’s going to be. In the future, he can help somebody like [he is being helped] now.”

In return for the scholarship assistance, the students will need to fulfill the rigorous requirements necessary for eligibility, including maintaining a qualifying grade-point average, actively participating in program activities and involving their parents whenever possible. In addition, the group of young men will serve as the first ambassadors of the program.

(From left:) Dr. Calvin Jamison, vice president for administration; Dallas ISD Assistant Superintendents Vince Reyes and Usamah Rodgers; Giovanny Lopez; Jason Manzala; Temoc; Mike Campos; Oscar Urritia; Dr. George Fair, vice president of diversity and community engagement and Jindal School Dean Hasan Pirkul do the Whoosh.

Dr. Hasan Pirkul, Jindal School dean and Caruth Chair, felt a sense of pride that his vision was finally coming to fruition after 10 years of planning. He also said he was upset with himself for not having launched the program sooner.

“We should have gotten this done a decade ago,” he said.

Pirkul noted the large number of students from Dallas ISD — a district that has the second largest enrollment in the state of Texas — and wondered how many of its graduates enroll at UT Dallas.

“It’s a relevant question,” he said. “If the answer is ‘not many,’ then we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Pirkul was optimistic that the program would grow, he said, and that it would be successful and become a model program for other schools to emulate.

Usamah Rodgers, assistant superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District, spoke at at the JYSP "Signing Day" event.

Dallas ISD Assistant Superintendent Usamah Rodgers spoke to Pirkul’s level of commitment to seeing the program through.

“This is what visionary servant leadership looks like,” she said. “It’s an amazing feeling to see something go from ideation to actualization. To see the students and their families and the smiles on their faces — this is just a life-changing experience, and we are extremely grateful.”

Oscar Urritia signing his commitment to enroll in UT Dallas' Naveen Jindal School of Management as a Jindal Young Scholar

“By being the first cohort, we provide inspiration and that leadership that everybody’s asking for,” said, Urrutia. “Everything I do is based on goals that I want to achieve. I always set short-term and long-term goals for myself. I want to be successful in college. After college I want to go out there in the world, be a leader and inspire people to believe in themselves.”

The occasion marked another Jindal School step forward toward fulfilling its mission of supporting high school students from the district to become college-ready.

Representatives from State Farm, one of the major donors to the initiative, attended the event. Lori Manning, human resources director, stated that the primary reason the company financially supports JYSP is because of its commitment to the community.

“What better way to invest than in our young people?” she asked. “By a child going to college, it’s going to change generations, and generations of families in our local community are going to benefit from these four students. When a family benefits, the community benefits. We’re excited to be a part of it.”

Darren Allred, philanthropy manager for State Farm, concurred with Manning and added that the possibility of having the scholars become employees was “icing on the cake.”

“We have a commitment to building safer, stronger, better-educated communities,” he said. “The Jindal Young Scholars Program is the absolute definition of that. It’s starting with the children that, like Lori said, are going to make a difference for many, many years to come.”

Schewee said that, although the students in the initial cohort did not have the benefit of participating in four years of a program primarily intended to make them ready for college, they still would be placed in leadership positions. And he indicated that they were ready for the challenge.

“These are extremely bright and talented young men,” he said. “They’re a special group because they are the first cohort.”

Schewee said he has told them that they will be the standard-bearers for future cohorts of the Jindal Young Scholars Program.

“Anything that I could tell high school students pales in comparison to what these guys could say in terms of the experience they had in high school, what they had to do to earn these scholarships and the value of the education they will receive at the Jindal School,” he said. “It’s much more meaningful coming from them.”

— Jimmie R. Markham


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