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Dallas County Promise Student Challenge Competition Shapes Future North Texas Leaders


Students from five Dallas County high schools presented on April 3 innovative solutions to address barriers in their communities to equitable college access. Duncanville High School emerged as champion of the Promise Student Challenge. The competition is an annual event hosted by Dallas County Promise, a coalition of high schools, two- and four-year colleges, employers and communities united by the shared objective of preparing North Texas students to thrive in the 21st century workforce.

Over the course of eight weeks (January 24–March 22), each team worked collaboratively to identify a challenge related to postsecondary access on their campus, develop a forward-thinking solution and craft a five-minute presentation to share at a closing ceremony. This year five schools participated: Uplift Hampton Preparatory, Duncanville High School, PACE High School, Newman Smith High School and DeSoto High School.

The participation of PACE High School, an alternative academic pathway school, is especially noteworthy. Too often, students in need of special accommodations aren’t provided the same range of postsecondary options and support as students who don't need accommodations – a systemic issue the PACE team sought to remedy in its presentation.

On April 3, 2024, all five student challenge teams convened at the University of North Texas at Dallas to present their thought-provoking solutions to a panel of professionals. These solutions covered a wide range of topics, including alternative options after high school graduation, career exposure, exploration and preparation. The projects were evaluated based on creativity, execution and timeliness. Following their five-minute presentations, the students fielded impromptu questions about their solutions, followed by further discussion with the judges, all of which contributed to their total scores.

Organizers announced at the closing celebration Duncanville High School won the competition. After conducting research on their campus, the team said in their presentation they found that "three-fourths of high school graduates say there were moderately, slightly, or not at all prepared to make college or career decisions after graduation." The team of ten students then created an in-depth business plan aimed at reversing this trend — and offered a creative presentation to win over the judges.

The Duncanville students' plan includes collaboration with professionals in their community and surrounding areas. Their outreach program, calling Forward Futures, aims to offer students on their campus resources such as job fairs, guidance counselors, and professional attire. These resources will help students identify their strengths, interests, and skills, ultimately guiding them toward career paths that align with their abilities and aspirations. The overall goal of the team's solution is to tackle the problem by providing comprehensive support to empower students to make informed decisions about their post-graduation plans.

The dedicated and innovative solutions from each team are testaments to the potential of our youth to drive positive change and shape the future of our state. Through their efforts, they are advancing our True North Goal: by 2040, at least half of all 25- to 34-year-old residents of Dallas County, regardless of race, will earn a living wage. But also, the students’ efforts inspire others to join them in creating a more just and equitable society for generations to come.

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