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Community Voices: BEACON OF LIGHT RETURNS TO BON TON COMMUNITY

An interview with Sherri Mixon, Executive Director, Hoover Community Development Center

The new H. S. Thompson STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) Academy welcomed students to their new home in January 2022. Built on the site of the previous school in the heart of the Bon Ton community of South Dallas, the $30 million campus features a two-story, 73,000 square foot building on a 5.7-acre site to include 23 core classrooms, a gymnasium that doubles as a storm shelter, library/media center, 7 science classrooms, special education classrooms, art classroom, music classroom, dance classroom, Maker space, flex spaces, and exterior play areas.  In the center of the building you find the Jacqueline Mixon Cafetorium complete with light and sound systems, stage storage, equipment room, and multipurpose room.  The space was named for Jacqueline Mixon, the grassroots community leader who spearheaded the campaign to have the campus reopened after its closure in 2011.

 

Thursday, May 5, 2022 at 5 pm, Dallas ISD will hold the official building dedication ceremony celebration the completion of construction on the campus.  The public is invited to attend and join in the celebration.  We had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Sherri Mixon, a part of the grassroots advocacy that resulted in the school’s reopening. Ms. Mixon currently serves as president of the school’s Site-Based Decision-Making committee.  She shared her thoughts on the reopening of H. S. Thompson and what it means to the tight-knit Bon Ton community.

A little history of H. S. Thompson Elementary and what it has meant to the Bon Ton community...

H. S. Thompson started as a little white house so small that students would eat lunch outside. Thompson was a beacon of light in our community.  It was a gathering space for the neighborhood. It was a meeting place for the community. It was the school then, and it's the school now.  

We're needing it for that space. We're needing to be able to provide more programming and outreach services. We're needing teachers with the diversity who value diversity because our community is so diverse. There needs to be continuing education to help support those neighbors that are coming into our community. The school, to me, is a force of knowledge that brings forward something for everyone and not just our children. Our children will be more blessed in this space.

The journey that led to the opening of the new H. S. Thompson Elementary School in Bon Ton…

It started with a sad event, the closing of our school. Thompson was a cherished facility in our neighborhood. It's always been our higher institution of learning in our community.  Its closing directly impacted our community and kids who were saying, “We want our school, we want our school.”  I decided to get behind them and to allow them to express themselves and have a voice in the closure of their school as well as in the fight for their school. That led to the formation of the Friends of H. S. Thompson. 

The Friends of H. S. Thompson was started by a group of ladies in their 70s and older who, like my mother, Jacqueline Mixon, attended H.S. Thompson.  Some members have parents or grandparents who went to Thompson as well. They came together to fight for the return of our school to our community.

We started calling the district to find out how we could reopen our school. They didn't rightly say when; but, they did say the school would come back. After a series of meetings, we realized that we had to get  more involved with Dallas ISD to ensure that our school returned sooner rather than later. We were told these were the meetings we had to schedule; these were the people we had to involve; and these were the places we had to be in to be seen and heard. And our involvement hat got the attention of the district. Dallas ISD brought this community to the table, and we were able to work together to restore H. S. Thompson and bring our kids back home.

How it feels when you enter the new H. S. Thompson…

Well, it honestly brings tears to my eyes. The way this school has been built, you walk in, you see a sign on the wall, “Welcome Tigers”. And then you see these wonderful colored floors with designs that are bright that create an infusion of wanting to learn. Then you walk down the hallways, and you see some of the little cubby spaces where kids can sit outside of their classrooms to read.  That’s important because it's hard for kids to sit in one space and retain what a teacher wants to teach.   

The cafetorium, the wonderful surround-sound system in the state-of-the-art gym. I've never seen anything like that. When you go upstairs there are largely fitted classrooms with bright colors and so much natural lighting. And the dance and music rooms where kids will start to learn and collaborate with other students while learning ballet and to play instruments. Then there’s the tech room where technology is going to be brought out. And the beautiful library and media room filled light that will enhance our babies learning. It just brings tears to my eyes because I have never seen something so beautiful. Sometimes I can't believe that this is what we achieved as a collective group of community members working in partnership with Dallas ISD.

Community involvement with Dallas ISD on bond projects…

I would say to any community member concerned about the education of youth in your neighborhood, whether you’re a parent or not a parent, you have a voice and a right. Go down and get involved with the district. They are open to talking with you and to seeing you through whatever the process is. There are new people in charge that are working, and they have the same vision—to educate kids.

For more information on the new H. S. Thompson Elementary, visit www.dallasisd.org/thompson

Jacqueline Bell