Over 200 Dallas high school students and 40 chaperones filled the auditorium inside Jackson State University’s College of Business on Tuesday, July 31. The group was part of the Legacy Tour – “Standing on the Shoulders of Greatness” hosted by Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, who has ties to the JSU community.
“At the end of the day, I love Jackson State University, but I want y’all to know that I went to Texas Southern,” he said then laughs. “Jackson State has a strong alumni presence in Dallas. I’m telling you when it comes to football, education, Walter Payton – I have a great appreciation for Jackson State.”
The visitors were treated to a dynamic and informative presentation by the Department of Undergraduate Recruitment, the Office of Enrollment Management, JSU student ambassadors and members of the MADDRAMA theatre troupe.
“It’s all about building bridges and building connections especially when it comes to recruitment,” said Keiona Miller, assistant director of Undergraduate Recruitment.
She explained the importance of the University capitalizing on the contacts that alumni and others have outside of the capital city. “We’re always going to reach out and try to develop that relationship. We have to stay on the minds of these young people. It is an investment in the future,” she said.
The group spent several days touring places like Selma, Alabama; Alabama State University, Tuskegee University, and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. Jackson State served as their last stop before returning to Texas.
It is Caraway’s ninth year heading the tour. He explained that the idea came to him while driving through the streets of Dallas. “I had a 16-year-old young man with me, and he had never seen downtown Dallas. That disturbed me,” he said.
According to the mayor, the teenager had yet to venture beyond his crime-ridden neighborhood, which prompted Caraway to create a program that would enhance
and elevate African-American youth.
“I wanted to show them that there is something greater in the world for them,” he said.
Caraway, who changes the theme of the tour each year, chose “Standing on the Shoulders of Greatness” as the latest motif because he wanted students to learn and understand the efforts of those who paved the way for the liberties experienced today.
“They died. They got beat. They were bitten by dogs and sprayed with water hoses just for us to be able to be here at Jackson State.” He said, “You had folks like Medgar Evers and others who took all the hits so that we can have an education. How are we going to pay them back?”
Sophomore Cameron Henderson described the trip as enlightening. “I feel like I’ve grown as an individual learning about my heritage,” he said.
The teen also said a highlight of the trip was the performance by MADDRAMA who was “spittin’ bars.”
Henderson said he appreciated the troupe talking about real-world issues involving racism and prejudice. “When in reality it shouldn’t matter what I look like, it should be about my heart and my character,” he explained.
The presentation by JSU recruiters was “live” (slang for fun) said Henderson who also expressed that he is looking forward to returning to the campus as a Tiger.
Despite the “exhausting” bus ride, Dallas high school freshman Olivia Howard called the trip “amazing.” She was also impressed by the JSU presentation and has already decided where she will attend college.
“JSU is going to be my university of choice. Almost all my family went here. My grandmother met my grandpop here at Jackson State. They’ve been together for a very long time,” said Howard, who noted that she also wants to attend the HBCU so she can learn more about her culture and heritage.
Due to the rain, the students were unable to tour the campus. However, they were all treated to a pizza party courtesy of IMS Engineering Group which seemed to brighten their day.