“In 2008, I walked into the Dallas County Youth Village for the first time. My friend, Jerry Silhan, was the executive director for Youth Village Resources of Dallas at the time, and he asked me to come to the juvenile residential treatment facility (an anesthetized way to refer to a prison for kids) to teach a group of young men to make ice cream for a competition featuring local college culinary school students.

Upon meeting them, I ashamedly realized that I had stereotyped them before I ever met them. Not only were they not the thugs I had imagined them to be, I couldn’t understand how these amazing young men could end up in jail at all.

I used to rationalize that it was the homes, schools and communities they came from that failed them in the first place. But that statement creates too much distance between my life and theirs. We’re not talking about a different world. We’re talking about neighborhoods that are a stone’s throw from the heart of downtown Dallas. This can’t be a “them” or an “over there” issue: It’s an “us” and a “here” issue. This is our Dallas, and we’re actively failing it as long as we continue to fail to see our people. Especially our kids.”

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