Recent pep rallies at elementary schools across Dallas have included a little gift for every kid in attendance -- a T-shirt with the name of their local high school and the year they’ll graduate.
Second and fourth graders at Kiest Elementary recently filled the auditorium for a pep rally. First to take the stage were the school’s cheerleaders.
They led their classmates in the chant: “We will graduate from school! We’re gonna graduate, how about you?”
Their principal, Yasmine Cruz, would be happy if the kids could keep chanting for another decade, all the way to their diplomas.
“Let’s do a little math," she told the assembly. "How long will it take you to graduate from high school?”
They conferred with each other. And then the 7- to 9-year-olds held up stubby fingers. Ten more years for the second graders, eight years for the fourth graders.
This pep rally featured special guests -- seniors from Bryan Adams High School, where these children will attend if they stay in the neighborhood in East Dallas.
The Bryan Adams students had a sales pitch for their high school.
“The first thing we have are our academics,” said Jonas Veazey, the senior class president. He talked about math and science, computer coding and building robots to the kids, before moving on to the athletics and arts clubs.
Veazey asked them if they’d like to learn to build robots, throw rifles in the air, dance, or play musical instruments in the high school marching band.
The kids in the audience raised their hands high.
At the end of the assembly, Veazey and his classmates handed out the gift -- Class of 2025 T-shirts for the second graders, and Class of 2023 T-shirts for the fourth graders.
The little shirts are green for the Bryan Adams Cougars.
A Little School Pride Goes A Long Way
Veazey says many of his friends didn’t join him at Bryan Adams from the feeder middle schools.
“In middle school they hear about bad things that happen at Bryan Adams,” he said. “I feel like if we can get them here, they won’t believe the false things that they hear.”
Cruz, the principal, also wants the students to stay put and go to their local high school, rather than flee to the suburbs for high school. “What we’re trying to do is motivate our students to stay in our community,” she said. Maybe a T-shirt advertising their future high school will help.
Louisa Meyer is a Dallas parent who started this program to give T-shirts to elementary schoolers.
“For a long time I’ve wanted to have more neighborhood identity around our schools, and a T-shirt came to mind,” she said.
Meyer started raising money from philanthropists and foundations. She’s printed 16,000 T-shirts so far, in the colors of the Dallas high schools. They’ve been given to students at 110 elementary schools.
Meyer has 42 to go to get every elementary school in the district.
The kids can wear their T-shirts on Spirit Fridays, and on field trips, “to bolster the community around the neighborhood high school, to give a big city a hometown feel, and most importantly to build expectations around graduating,” Meyer said.
One principal told kids that the T-shirts had magic powers, to get them in for free to any event at the local high school.
And kids love magic.