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For interview requests, Kristina can be contacted at email@example.com. Photos I took from the event are available here and can be used with credit to Stephanie Drenka (https://stephaniedrenka.com).
“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit.” (Wilma Rudolph)
New years are always a great excuse for a fresh start. I wrote earlier about how my concept of “influence” has changed. The influencers I follow these days are no longer high-profile fashion bloggers, but real-life superheroes who are working to leave the world a better place than they found it. My hope this year is to share some of their stories so you can be as inspired as I am by them.
The most influential person in my life this past year is a woman named Kristina Dove. Kristina is my coworker at Big Thought, but more than this– she is a partner-in-crime, best friend, and personal hero.
Kristina is a tireless servant of the community and advocate for Dallas children. For the past three years, Kristina has served on the Site Based Decision Making Team for Dallas ISD’s Billy Earl Dade Middle School. The team is comprised of key community members, the school community liaison, and principal. Together, they make strategic decisions and plans directly affecting students and staff of the school.
Opportunities resulting from their meetings include a Back-to-School event, 5th grade prom, Dallas City of Learning summer initiatives, staff appreciation, testing days, and more. There is a heavy focus on engaging the community, corporate and city entities with students.
Dade Middle School “Breakfast With Dads” Event
Back in December, the team ran into some difficulty when planning their annual “Breakfast with Dads” event. Dade’s community liaison Ellyn Favors mentioned that student participation was low due to young men not having a father/father-figure available to attend the event. Kristina decided to post a call for volunteers on Facebook in the hope of finding 50 male mentors to accompany the middle schoolers.
I remember Kristina texting me about the event and asking me to share with my friends. We decided that it would be best for her to make the post public, in order to gain more widespread reach:
Please Share! Men Needed!
On next Thursday, December 14th at 8:30 AM at Dr. Billy Earle Dade Middle School we will…
Within days of the post (which was shared more than 125 times), Dallas Morning News published an article relaying the message. More than 600 men signed up for the event.
The unexpected influx of interest led the team to move the event from the cafeteria into the gymnasium so they could house more guests. Kristina engaged the community again in getting volunteers to help with set-up and check-in. Team members from Big Thought, the Office of Cultural Affairs, and even Kristina’s personal friends showed up alongside the male mentors to make the event possible.
I was privileged to photograph the event at Kristina’s request. It was a miracle any of the pictures came out in focus, because I could barely see clearly through the tears streaming down my face and fogged-up glasses.
I will never forget witnessing the young students surrounded by supportive community members. There were so many volunteers, that at times I saw young men huddled in the center of 4-5 mentors. The look of awe- even disbelief- in students’ eyes as they made their way through the crowd of “Dads” was astonishing.
Jamil “The Tie Man” Tucker led the auditorium in a hands-on icebreaker activity. He spoke of learning how to tie a tie as a rite of passage some young men never experience. Mentors handed out ties to the eager students and helped them perfect their half-Windsor knot.
The sight of a necktie may forever bring a tear to my eye.
After everyone had their ties securely knotted, the crowd filed out of the auditorium and into the gym for breakfast. Mentors ate with the students, attempting to fit a lifetime of advice into a 30 minute meal.
I listened to some of the conversations while moving around the room snapping photos. There was so much inspiration everywhere– the hope was palpable and reached every corner of the crowded room.
The mentors volunteered more than their time. They shared their knowledge, encouragement, and passions with the students.
Following the Breakfast with Dads event, news of it has been shared nationally on CNN, MSNBC, and more. It’s an incredible story of kindness and community that our country really needs these days. I’m so proud of Kristina’s relentless work to provide opportunities like this to Dallas youth.
Follow more “Breakfast with Dads” news coverage here.