SLANT 45, which stands for Service Learning in North Texas, was a community project program that aimed to involve children in community service.
When it comes down to it, most kids just want simple things. Is it too much to ask for a place to play, a place to run around, or sit and read?
Cheryl Mayo didn’t think so.
As the executive director for West Dallas Community Centers, she oversees four different centers that provide tutoring, reading, cultural awareness and general support for as many as 2,500 Dallas-area youth. In fact, the WDCC has been providing after-school programs for kids since 1932. Mayo has always instilled an attitude of service in her kids, but after hearing about SLANT45 (a “service learning” initiative created by the North Texas Super Bowl Host Committee) through her work with The Links, she knew she could really help these kids make a difference.
“There was this piece of land across the street—it was a real eyesore,” she says. “The kids had been looking at it for who knows how many years.” So she let the kids identify what was most important to them; in fact, she had them draw it out. She says, “They drew simple things—things that kids in other communities had access to, like a soccer field, volleyballs, a swimming pool, a mural with different colors.”
Then they got down to business—the business of filling their “wish list.” On July 30, along with hundreds of employees from Bank of America, Exxon Mobile Dream Team and Audubon Dallas, over 50 kids from the West Dallas Community Centers went to work fixing up the J.J. McMillan Center, located at 3730 Ladd St. They picked up trash (including recycling), planted flowers, painted nearby homes—“full on community enhancement,” according to Mayo. Additionally, they built an outdoor reading area, building benches and painting colorful fingerprints on the walls.
“What’s so special,” says Mayo, “is that the kids can see the difference they’re making in the community.” She adds that she was happy to teach kids about the concept of public and private ownership. “We’re a poor little agency, but we’re working with corporate partners to do this. For them to draw something … and have people tell them, ‘We’re gonna make it happen’—they’re ecstatic.”
All it took was a little imagination. Sometimes things really are that simple.