Category Archives: News

Irving ISD welcomes students displaced by Hurricane Harvey

Irving Independent School district is helping displaced Houston families and students who are living in Irving. For many of these students, their schools were damaged or permanently closed due to Hurricane Harvey. Approximately 47 students from the Houston area have enrolled and are attending Irving ISD schools. Three students who attended Irving ISD temporarily returned home.

As more South Texas families arrive in Dallas, the number of students expected to enroll will increase over the following week.

Upon arriving in Irving, each student is immediately enrolled into one of the Irving ISD schools. The students qualify for the federal Mckinney-Vento Homeless Assistance program and receive items including school supplies, backpacks and school uniforms In addition, the students are assigned to the free breakfast and lunch program.

Evacuee families are given the chance to work with an Irving ISD counselor to gain information about resources they might need.

“About half of the students are living with family members,” said Adam Grinage, Deputy Superintendent of academic services. “We expect them to be here a little longer. The other half of the students are in the evacuee centers. They are still transitioning to determine if they will return to their homes. Those kids probably won’t stay here too long.

“Fortunately we were prepared. We met the week before the hurricane happened in an anticipation of getting kids. We had backpacks ready along with school supplies and school uniforms. We made sure every student had these essential materials.”

The Irving Schools Foundation (ISF) reached out to Irving ISD to offer free school supplies. The ISF runs a free ‘store’ set where teachers can get supplies for their students.

“We made sure our students had a buddy with a similar schedule so they weren’t just coming in and didn’t know where they were going,” said Anika Horgan, principal of de Zavala Middle School. “They were typically nervous, but the welcome and just having everything they needed made the transition seamless.”  

Irving ISD has a coordinator who directs the responsive services for the families. These services involve providing access to food outside of the normal school hours and other resources within the community. As of now, the families’ needs are being met. The only concern the school district has is ensuring the students feel safe, comfortable, and wanted.

“We open our doors to any student, any day, for any situation,” Grinage said. “We recognized there was a great need to open our doors for kids no matter where they come from or who they are. When they come in our doors, we don’t think if they’re are going to be here for just a week or a month. Once they are with us, they are ours until they leave. 

“We treat them like they are anybody else, in fact, we probably pay more attention to them just to make sure there are not emotional needs or physical needs that we need to pay attention to.” 

Before the hurricane hit Houston, Irving ISD received 14 students.

Austin Middle School accepted two evacuee families.

“We have taken up a collection of goods like food, diapers, formula, and items of clothing as well,” said Karen Smith, the campus secretary at Austin Middle School. “We donated through the Irving Police Department to give to Irving Cares and we are still collecting money.”

Schools located in Aransas County were so heavily damaged they are closed indefinitely.

“One of the moms’ of a student we have accepted from the hurricane said, ‘No more Houston, I’m tired of fighting,’ after her apartment was destroyed,” Smith said. “We will open our arms for them and try to make them feel as welcome as we can. It’s so important for them to continue their education and try to get normality. We just take them in and treat them like they are one of us. Once they enroll and become a Bronco, they are always a Bronco.”

To make the students feel welcome and secure, their arrival as displaced is not broadcast to the other students. The school is focusing on treating the students as normally as possible.

“We have to do it this way because it doesn’t matter where they come from, they are here and this is home. This is where they feel loved and supported,” Smith said. “I am overwhelmed by all of the aid we have come across.”

“The teachers were told to collect things and bring them to the station at the school, and the officers would collect them and take them to Irving Cares,” said Officer Greg Spivey at Austin Middle School. “Money is actually a better way to donate than items because of all the logistics of getting them down there. If you earmark something for hurricane Harvey relief, then all of that money will only be spent for hurricane Harvey.”

“As a facility, we went ahead and decided to announce a fundraiser to our staff and our students,” said Sean Flynn, principal of Lively Elementary. “If they paid five dollars, they would be able to wear jeans for the day and all of the proceeds would go towards the Red Cross to help with the hurricane relief.

“So far we haven’t received any new students, but we are prepared and ready to go. We have a home for them and classrooms. We are excited to have new students and provide them with all the assistance we can.”

During their fundraiser, Lively Elementary raised $2,541.10.

“Irving ISD believes that all students are welcome,” Anika Horgan said. “The response was so immediate that not only did I as a principal ask ‘what could we do’ but other faculty, staff, and students were asking ‘What do we need to do and how can we help out?’ Irving was quick to reach out and prepare the schools because new students were coming. It’s just the whole community aspects of saying, ‘How can we make sure we are providing everything the families need?’ It really shows how, not only the Irving community can come together but also how can Irving ISD come together.”

New statewide law prohibits texting while driving

AUSTIN – Effective Sept. 1, texting while driving is illegal across the state of Texas as the result of a new texting-while-driving ban passed during the 85th Texas Legislative Session. The law prohibits motorists from reading, writing or sending electronic messages while driving.

“One in five crashes in Texas is caused by distracted driving,” said TxDOT Executive Director James Bass. “We are pleased the Texas Legislature recognizes the extreme danger caused by texting and driving. The new law sends a very clear message to Texans to put down their phones and focus on the road. We are hopeful this new law will help save lives and reduce injuries.”

Last year, 109,658 traffic crashes in Texas involved distracted driving. Those crashes resulted in 455 deaths and 3,087 serious injuries.

While distracted drivers risk injuring or killing themselves and others, they also now face penalties under the new statewide law. A first offense is punishable by a fine up to $99; any subsequent offense carries a fine up to $200. Drivers should be aware that some cities have additional ordinances that are more restrictive. Exceptions to the new law include emergency communication or electronic messaging when the vehicle is stopped.

For those under 18 years of age, Texas law already bans all cell phone use while driving, including hands-free, except in the case of emergencies. Additionally, drivers are currently banned from texting and using hand-held cellular devices while driving in school zones. School bus operators also are prohibited from using cell phones while driving if children are present.

To help educate the public on the new law, TxDOT will be posting information on portable roadside message signs as well as permanent signs along interstate and U.S. highways.

SOURCE Texas Department of Transportation

Set the date!

Irving Main Street Event
September 15 – 6 to 10 p.m.
September 16 – Noon to 5 p.m.

Irving Heritage District 217 S. Main St. Irving, TX. Free Admission, Free Parking.This annual street festival in the heart of the Irving Heritage District celebrates the hometown feel of Irving with attractions for all ages. Each year thousands of people attend this family affair, which offers live music, the Manifolds on Main Street Car Show, free rides and activities for children, food and shopping.


Ballet Folklorico at Cozby Library
September 16, 2 p.m.

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with a performance by Sima Ballet Folklorico! Stop by the Cozby Library and Community Commons to enjoy the bright costumes and traditional Mexican music and dance. All ages welcome to attend.

Back-seat belt use overlooked aspect of traffic safety

COLLEGE STATION — While the overall use of safety belts has increased over the decades, a look into the back seat of many vehicles today tells a different story,” said Bev Kellner. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service traffic safety program manager, College Station.

“According to a recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety survey, four out of the five adults who admit to not using a safety belt in the back seat said they are least likely to use them during short trips or when using a taxi or ride-share service,” Kellner said.

The survey exposes a common misperception among vehicle passengers that sitting in the back seat of a vehicle is safer than sitting in the front.

“Using a safety belt in the back seat is just as important as using one in the front seat,” Kellner said. “It may have been true in the past that the rear seat was safer, but that’s not really the case now thanks to new technologies and improved vehicle manufacturing.”

The tendency to not wear safety belts in the back seat of a taxi or ride-share vehicle could become a habit for the non-use of back seat safety belts in a regular vehicle, she said. This was validated by the study, which showed those who reported most of their trips as a rear-seat passenger in hired vehicles were also less likely to use rear-seat safety belts in their personal vehicles.

“As it becomes a habit for people to use their safety belts, it can become a habit not to as well, especially if there’s a mistaken perception that the back seat is already a safe space,” she said. “A habit that develops when using a service like a taxi, Lyft or Uber can carry over into the use of a personal vehicle.”

In its study of 1,172 respondents, the IIHS study found that among respondents who said they had ridden in the back seat of a vehicle during the preceding six months, 72 percent said they always used a back seat belt while 91 percent said they always use their front seat belt.

The study showed adults 35 to 54 were the least likely to fasten their safety belts while in the back seat of a vehicle. Only 66 percent of this age group buckled up in the back seat, while 76 percent of adults 55 and older and 73 percent of adults 18 to 34 reported buckling up. In addition, women and adults who had attended college were more likely to use a safety belt in the rear seat. Only 57 percent of passengers in hired vehicles reported always using their belt in the rear seat.

“Another misperception addressed by the IIHS study is that rear-seat passengers feel in a collision their non-use of seat belts will not have any effect on the driver or front-seat passengers,” Kellner said. “But the fact is any item or person in the back seat can become a ‘projectile’ to be tossed around the interior of the vehicle and kill or badly injure other passengers. That’s one of the reasons you should never hold a child in your lap while inside a vehicle. In the case of rollover crashes, unbelted passengers, whether in the front or rear seat, can easily be thrown from the vehicle.”

“Front-seat occupant safety has received a great deal of attention and vehicle manufacturers have taken great strides by enhancing protective features in those positions,” said Joseph Colella, owner of Traffic Safety Projects based in Charleston, South Carolina, and a nationally recognized traffic safety expert. “While rear seats have not received the same level of attention and progress, crash statistics prove that buckling up properly is crucial for all occupants, regardless of their seating positions. Unless everyone in the vehicle is properly restrained, none of the occupants are optimally protected.”

Kellner said while the study noted the main reason people gave for not buckling up in the rear seat was they felt it was safer, other reasons included not being in the regular habit of using a safety belt, belts were uncomfortable or fit poorly, and belts were difficult to find and use.

“The survey also showed not having a law that required rear-seat passengers to buckle up was an impediment,” Kellner said. “Fortunately, in Texas our law requires all passengers — both front and back, including those in multi-passenger vehicles — to use their seat belts. It also requires children under 8, unless taller than 4 feet, 9 inches, be put in a car seat used according to the manufacturer’s requirements.”

Kellner said while it is the responsibility of the rear-seat passenger to buckle up, technology and others in the vehicle can help ensure they do.

“Another interesting part of the IIHS study was that almost two-thirds of occasional or non-users of rear-seat safety belts said an audible reminder would make them more likely to buckle up,” she said. “Unfortunately, only a very small percentage of vehicles currently on the road have such reminders. But drivers and other passengers can have an influence on rear-seat passengers by politely asking them to buckle their safety belts.”

The study also showed having more comfortable belts would improve the likelihood of rear-seat passengers using them, Kellner said.

“Those surveyed said softer or padded belts and adjustable shoulder belts that don’t irritate the neck would be preferred, as would somewhat looser or less restrictive belts,” she said. “But even though passenger comfort is desirable, a little discomfort or annoyance while buckling up is a small price to pay for one’s personal safety and the safety of others.”

“Voice of DCCCD” retiring after more than 20 years

Dallas – Deborah “Debbie” Hutchison is leaving the building, and she’s going to try not to cry.

Fat chance.

For more than 22 years, she has devoted herself and her time to students, colleagues, supervisors and visitors at the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD).

“I think I’ve touched a few lives,” Hutchison said.

What motivates her is a desire to answer questions. She’s like a Trivial Pursuit expert, except all of the queries are about DCCCD, and she knows most, if not all, of the answers.

“Our students deserve to talk to someone who wants to help them,” said Hutchison said. “These years at DCCCD have enriched my life in so many ways that I could not have imagined. The most important blessings have come from my district office family. I’ve learned a lot here.”

Serving others

Dr. Joe May, the district’s chancellor, calls her “the voice of DCCCD. During an impromptu appearance before DCCCD’s trustees this month, Hutchison thanked board members for both the chance work for the district and the opportunity to spread her wings.

“I’ve been blessed to work with wonderful people and do meaningful work,” she told them.

When she came to interview for a job at the district, she was told that she was overqualified. Hutchison, undaunted, set out to prove that she could fit in with a constantly-evolving department.

“It was the love. I immediately felt love,” Hutchison said. “I did a lot of training just to keep my skills up. I’m a resource. I believe that if you don’t know the answer, you find out. You get it and you share it.”

She will be missed. It is Hutchison’s gentle and patient telephone voice that has guided students through the morass of college classes, majors, buildings, campuses and an assortment of other questions.

“I feel so much at home in education. These are all teaching moments,” she said.

Building strong relationships

At 71, Hutchison stayed in the workforce longer than planned, but mostly because it gave her a chance to learn and help others, and chance to master tasks that required software classes and other types of training.

“I cherish my colleagues,” she said. “Relationships are what I take from here. It’s the people.”

The feeling is mutual.

The district’s executive vice chancellor, Dr. Justin Lonon, called Hutchison “an outstanding ambassador. The epitome of customer service.

“She cares deeply about our students and their needs,” Lonon said. “She also is a great writer who has crafted materials and stories throughout the district. She is irreplaceable.”

Hutchison walked into DCCCD in 1995 looking for a job as a writer. A graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington, the English major wanted a job that would keep her engaged. She certainly found that and more. During her tenure, she penned DCCCD’s employee newsletter, wrote for the web and joined numerous leadership teams.

She’s worn a lot of different hats: facilitator, information specialist, department assistant, marketing information specialist and, finally, senior marketing information specialist. And as a member of the district’s Community Emergency Response Team, she actually donned a hard hat as she guided her colleagues and supervisors during emergency drills.

A Fort Worth native, Hutchison eagerly and proudly claims Dallas as her home. She is a longtime member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the Dallas Arboretum. She is quick to add that she also has a membership with Fort Worth’s renowned Kimball Art Museum.

“I will never give up my Fort Worth roots,” she said.

Hutchison is an award-winning speaker and writer. As head of the DCCCD Talks chapter of Toastmasters International, she has won a number of honors for her speeches. She also has hosted and helped organize the district’s annual celebrations honoring other cultures, including the annual African American Read-in.

Trading hats

Kathy Cook, the district’s chief marketing officer, called Hutchison “our number one customer service representative.”

“When phones all over the district are overloaded and going to voicemail, Debbie is the one people know they can call and talk to, a kind and patient person,” Cook said.

Hutchison, according to Cook, has the institutional knowledge that everyone in the district relies on.

“Like our students, we count on Debbie to know everything about everything. And, not surprisingly, she does,” Cook said. “But Debbie is so much more to all of us in district marketing. She is a true friend who cares about each and every one us, and our families and even our pets. She is family, and family is forever.”

Hutchison will embark on new adventures as she retires. In addition to gardening, she plans to donate a good deal of time to her four grandchildren, pen a journal and work on her family’s genealogy – a pet project that she says borders on obsession.

But she promises not to stray too far.

“This is not the end. It’s the beginning. I love everybody I work with. It’s been a great ride, but it’s not over,” said Hutchison, who plans to return every other Thursday to DCCCD’s downtown Dallas office building for Toastmasters meetings.

“I’ll be back for my craziness. I won’t have time to cry,” she said.

SOURCE Dallas County Community College District

Perot Museum offers free admission to families affected by Hurricane Harvey

DALLAS – The Perot Museum of Nature and Science near downtown Dallas is offering free admission to the families displaced by Hurricane Harvey. From now through Sept. 30, families who reside in the impacted multi-county region can receive complimentary general admission for up to seven family members. A proof of residency and photo ID are required. Find a list of qualifying counties and other details at perotmuseum.org/discounts.

With school back in session and summer coming to an end for North Texans, the Perot Museum will celebrate Labor Day weekend with three fun-filled days. From Sept 2-4, guests can enjoy daily “science on the spot” demos, bookworm readings, science trivia and other drop-in activities at select times throughout the Museum, plus kids 5 and under can enjoy paper plate creations in the Moody Family Children’s Museum until 3 p.m.

It’s also the final weekend for Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed, the largest exhibition about the Maya to ever tour the country (closing Labor Day). Visitors can decipher hieroglyphs, build arches, learn cultural and architectural techniques, and explore an underworld cave, nearly 250 authentic artifacts, an ancient burial site, mural room and more. And there’s still time to catch this summer’s 3D films – including Dream Big 3D, Walking With Dinosaurs 3D and Wild Africa 3D.

Through Labor Day (Sept. 4), veterans, active and retired U.S. military personnel and first responders will receive complimentary general admission plus $3 off general admission for members of their immediate families (up to six family members). In addition, the Community Partners Ticket Program offers $1 general admission and $1 admission to Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed for guests who qualify based on need.

The Perot Museum will stay open until 6 p.m. through Labor Day. PLEASE NOTE: The Museum will be closed Sept. 5-7 for annual maintenance and will reopen with regular hours Sept. 8.
Parking is $10. Visitors can save $2 on general admission when purchasing online. For more info, go to perotmuseum.org/summer.

SOURCE Perot Museum of Nature and Science

Town Hall addresses community’s concerns about Senate Bill 4

The Irving Police Department (IPD) hosted a town hall meeting in Irving High School’s auditorium on Tuesday, Aug. 29, to discuss the IPD’s response to Senate Bill 4 and address the town’s concerns. The halls filled with Irving residents and families in a mix of work uniforms and bright red hats and shirts reading “Stop SB4, keep families united — sí se puede.”

Senate Bill 4 (SB4) prohibits any policy limiting local law enforcement officers from communicating and cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), thereby cracking down on ‘sanctuary cities.’ The Texas bill signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott in May and took effect at 12 a.m. on Sept. 1. Only hours before the bill was to take effect, federal judge Orlando L. Garcia of the Western District of Texas handed down a ruling preventing some provisions of SB4 from becoming law while leaving in place other elements some consider controversial.

“This is too important of a topic for you to rely on third party information,” Police Chief Jeff Spivey said. “That’s the purpose of this meeting: to stop rumors and get the truth out.”

Some cities, including Houston in wake of Hurricane Harvey, as well as Arlington, have declared they will not comply with this law. Legal repercussions remain to be seen but could include fines and removal of acting officials.

The IPD will comply with the law, but emphasized the department’s victim protection measures should reassure community members.

Since the majority of lawful detainments occur in response to traffic violations, officers noted the most effective way to avoid encounters with the new law is to avoid driving when possible.

“It’s impossible not to drive,” one woman said to much applause. “We have jobs and kids to take to school.”

 “I have clients who have gone back to living in the shadows,” another attendee said. “People are afraid to drive their children to school. All of the Irving residents are not represented here.”

“We want to let everybody in Irving feel safe,” Officer Charlie Cavazos said. “Those who come here, those who live here, all those who visit here.”

Officers encouraged those present to ask for clarification of their rights from officers. Aside from name, address and date of birth, all legally detained people have the right to remain silent in response to questioning.

“While the new law does not require or prohibit it, the Irving Police Department has chosen to specifically prohibit officers from asking [victims, witnesses and those who report crimes their immigration status],” an information sheet on the city of Irving’s website states. “The goal of the department is to protect victims of crime and to make the city safe for all. They should not be afraid to call the police if they need help.”

An exception to this departmental rule is victims who may require special paperwork to remain in the country until their cases are processed.

While officers are allowed to ask unidentified persons of their immigration status, a racial profiling standard requires any officer who asks one person must repeat the question to all other unidentified people they detain. Body cameras will be used to ensure this standard.

Officers also have some discretion the documents allowed for identification. While a valid U.S. driver’s license is sufficient in all cases, licenses which have expired may also be sufficient if other documents with the same name can be presented. Some officers said they simply ask for a phone number, where a third party can confirm the detained person’s name.

If a speeding ticket is signed, the speeder will not need to be taken into custody, regardless of immigration status. ICE would not be notified in that case.

A flyer entitled “Senate Bill 4 Q&A” offers more information in English and Spanish and is available on the city of Irving’s website. The city also offers Spanish and English informational videos on the topic.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has said he will appeal Judge Garcia’s ruling. The issues will likely battle their way to the Supreme Court.

Some of the portions of SB4 put on hold:

A provision requiring local jails to honor federal agents’ requests to incarcerate immigrants for up to 48 hours after they would have been released on bond, finished sentence, or found not guilty, so ICE could pick them up.

A provision preventing local officials from “endorsing,” or appearing to endorse, any policy even materially limiting immigration enforcement.

A provision requiring local police to allow officers to cooperate with federal agents whenever possible, including “enforcement assistance” of federal immigration law, thereby requiring local officers to act as federal agents.

Set the date!

Butterflies and Busy Bees
September 13, 6-7:30 P.M.

You won’t want to miss this opportunity to learn about the pollinator garden at the Make A Wish Foundation in Las Colinas, 6655 Deseo, Irving, TX 75039. A dedicated team of Dallas County Master Gardeners have developed and maintained this garden for six years.

The evening will begin with two Master Gardener speakers. Barbara Andersonwill talk about the history of the partnership between DCMGA and MAW – how and why the garden was started, how it has grown, and what it means to the Make A Wish Foundation. Linda Seidel, a past DCMGA President, will speak about the benefits of planting pollinator (host and nectar) plants.

A self-guided tour of the garden will follow, with Master Gardener docents, plus a plant list and diagram of the garden. Come enjoy the evening in this beautiful setting and take ideas home to use in your own gardens. This event is free and open to the public


Ballet Folklorico at Cozby Library
September 16, 2 p.m.

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with a performance by Sima Ballet Folklorico! Stop by the Cozby Library and Community Commons to enjoy the bright costumes and traditional Mexican music and dance. All ages welcome to attend.

Perot TECH Truck teaches coding, robot building

Teenagers and kids learned how to code and build their own robots when the Perot Museum TECH Truck visited the East Irving Library on Wednesday, Aug. 2.

The TECH Truck, short for “Tinker, Engineer, Create, Hack,” is a mobile extension of the Perot Museum that travels throughout DFW bringing hands-on exhibits and activities focused mostly on the STEM and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) fields.

“We are an outreach program and we do STEM-based activities for youth for neighborhoods that are underserved in some way,” said JC Bigornia, manager of the Perot TECH Truck. “Our goal is to reach populations that can’t get to the museum for whatever reason. We do a lot of engineering activities, because I think engineering is a good way of combining a lot of the elements of STEM and STEAM together, and we want to inspire future inventors and creators.”

During this visit, Bigornia taught the kids to make robots. Using simple parts like plastic cups and craft sticks, along with a battery-powered motor, kids created robots of their own design able to move and “battle” other robots.

“[The kids] are making really simple robots that move through kinetic motion,” Bigornia said. “They have a motor attached to them that spins around with an off-centered counterweight. The counterweight makes the robot vibrate back and forth. They’re supposed to design something to knock the other robots off the table, so it’s a little competition as well.”

In addition to making battle robots, kids also tried their hand at coding using markers and a high-tech tool called an Ozobot.

“[Ozobots] are a really nice teaching tool for learning basic coding,” Bigornia said. “They have color sensors on the bottom, and you code them by drawing. There are different commands they are programmed to respond to depending on the color combinations used. It’s a nice way of teaching coding from a really young age all the way up to middle school and younger high school.”

This was the final event in the East Irving Library’s teen summer reading program, “Out of This World.” Rose Mary Cortez, branch manager of the East Irving Library, said this year’s summer program was a big success for not just the East Irving Library, but for all branches of the library.

“We had a really good turnout at this location,” Cortez said. “From what I’ve been hearing from managers at the other branches, everyone had a good turnout all summer long. A lot of our programs were STEM-based. It keeps the kids interested, the parents coming back, and helps them keep learning during the summer. They’re having a great time and they don’t realize they’re learning.”

Cortez added that STEM-based programs at the library help to familiarize kids with basic concepts and to boost their confidence in those fields.

“It helps them to know this is not anything strange or out of their reach,” Cortez said. “If they can do it now, they have their confidence built up, and they know this is something achievable and obtainable as they get older and go through their high school years and into college.”

Amber Carmean, a teacher at Clifton Early Childhood School in Irving, took her two children, Mia (10) and Maddox (7), to the event.

“[STEM] is the one thing people tend to struggle with as they get older,” Carmean said. “I know for me that was always my struggle, and I just didn’t enjoy it. If we can get them excited about it now and let them see how much fun it really is, then we hope they’ll keep being excited about it and they’ll realize there are so many things in the world that involve science and math.”

JC Bigornia from the Perot Museum agreed getting kids interested in STEM early will help shape the inventors and engineers of tomorrow.

“For kids, it’s about combining their different interests and about creative problem solving,” Bigornia said. “A lot of that stuff, they don’t get to do in the classroom. I think it’s really important for kids, as they’re growing, to be able to combine those different experiences, because that will be really important in the careers that they follow.”

University of Dallas class of 2021 settles into Irving

The University of Dallas’ class of 2021 proved full of surprises, all of them pleasant.

The 427 students exceeded the school’s goal of 400, forcing the school’s Housing and Residence Life Department to scramble to find accommodations for the 383 new students who are living on campus. But after a smooth move-in day on Friday, Aug. 18, faculty and students alike seemed fully prepared for the year ahead.

This is the largest freshman class in the university’s history, breaking the previous record of 393. Though an official number cannot be given until the 12th day of class to allow for any last-minute changes, faculty and upperclassmen seem ready for a bustling year.

Executive Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs John Plotts emphasized this year’s class is impressive in more than its size. These students hold the highest average SAT score in the school’s history, 1260, ranking them in the 83rd percentile nationally.

Nearly 25 percent of incoming freshmen will also compete on at least one of the school’s Division III teams, according Plotts. He said the class is also one of the most diverse by some measurements with a record-breaking 27 percent of students claiming Hispanic ancestry.

These numbers reflect well on Texas, which half the students call home. A quarter come from the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex, and 20 hail from Irving itself.

“We’ve been trying really hard to recruit in the local state,” Plotts said. “It’s slowly becoming more Texas. We used to be 56 percent out-of-state and 44 percent in-state. We consider [the percentage of local students] a success.”

Plotts pointed out that other liberal arts schools of comparable size, such as Austin College, have closer to 90 percent of the student body coming from within the state.

The Texas representation does not overshadow a sizeable national and international population though; the class includes students from another nine countries, 39 states and 250 cities. One student traveled over 9,600 miles from Sri Lanka to attend UD.

Samuel Ramirez came from Austin and plans to spend more than four years in the area as he completes the nursing program.

“[We’re] somewhere between Dallas and Fort Worth,” is all Ramirez knows of Irving, but he plans on recruiting a friend with a truck to explore the area.

Lydia Martin is an English major and transfer student from east of Dallas. She has relatives in the area and says it seems nice, but does not know Irving outside of campus.

“It’s not the same as the first time going to college,” Martin said. “I’m not nearly as explorative.”

Michael Wambsganns is also a transfer student from Saint Louis University. He and his family have not had much time to leave campus and the Las Colinas area, but are interested in the chance to use Dallas Area Rapid Transit to go downtown and reach the local airports.

Both students look forward to getting to know their fellow classmates first, and said they experienced warm welcomes so far, from faculty as well as at least 60 upperclassmen orientation leaders who volunteered to help move the new students into their dorms.

“They brought in all my stuff while I was doing the room form,” Martin said. “It was amazing.”

“I kept taking things out [of my car] and they kept taking them away,” said Lydia’s mother, Cindy Martin.

In addition to the help moving in and informational sessions on academic life, the orientation team led a social justice project Sunday afternoon, where students put together packages for local homeless shelters. Advertised in the orientation pamphlet as “a fun and collaborative way to start serving your community in DFW,” the event was in keeping with the school’s Catholic focus on charity, as well as a way to connect students to the community outside of the school.

Other popular orientation events included a school-wide scavenger hunt, panels on leadership and community involvement, wellness and spiritual life informational events, and Masses. As classes begin and clubs start their activities, Irving’s newest residents are sure to find their place in their new school and city.