Category Archives: Dallas

DCCCD trustees approve concealed carry policy

Members of the Dallas County Community College District’s board of trustees unanimously approved a new concealed (or campus) carry policy on Tues., June 6. The policy will start on Aug. 1, 2017.

DCCCD and all other community colleges in Texas are required to have a concealed/campus carry policy in place on Aug. 1, 2017, so that they can implement state law, SB 11, which was passed in June 2015 by the Texas Legislature.

“The Dallas County Community College District is committed to protecting the health and safety of our DCCCD community as we respect the rights of its individual members,” Dr. Joe May, DCCCD’s chancellor said. “Passing this policy allows us to comply with the law without compromising our mission, purpose or the environment in which we all work and learn.

“I have worked with the district concealed carry committee and members of our board of trustees throughout this process to ensure that we meet the state’s deadline for implementation of our policy. Our concealed carry policy ensures that students and employees can learn and work in a safe environment and meets state requirements for individuals who are licensed to carry concealed handguns.

“The input of our students, employees and community members helped the committee craft a policy that reflects the ideas and feedback of everyone who participated,” he said.

Background

Senate Bill 11, passed by the Texas legislature and signed by the governor in June 2015, permits a licensed-to-carry holder to carry concealed handguns on campus. The law also allows DCCCD and other institutions to adopt rules or regulations to implement concealed carry on campus as necessary, in view of student population, safety concerns and uniqueness of the campus environment, as long as the rules and regulations do not generally prohibit or have the effect of generally prohibiting a license-holder from carrying a concealed handgun on campus.

“The law does not allow ‘open carry’ on college campuses,” said Lauretta Hill, DCCCD’s commissioner of public safety and security. “Open carry refers to the intentional display of a handgun, including the partially- or wholly-visible display of a handgun stored in a shoulder or belt holster. The law also does not allow the carry of rifles or shotguns on college campuses.”

DCCCD formed a districtwide concealed carry committee in fall 2016 chaired by Hill. Rob Wendland, the district’s general counsel, and Tricia Horatio, assistant general counsel, provided legal advice. Each college in the DCCCD system – Brookhaven, Cedar Valley, Eastfield, El Centro, Mountain View, North Lake and Richland – had its own campus committee as well.

To prepare for and discuss concealed carry, the district held more than 40 open and public forums in January and February to gather comments from students, employees and community members. Following the public and campus forums held in January and February, the districtwide concealed carry committee worked on drafting a policy in April and May; the first reading of the policy was presented to the DCCCD board of trustees on May 2.

The policy’s second reading – and discussion in a work session among members of the board’s education and workforce committee with the chancellor, general counsel and police commissioner – was presented on June 6; board members then voted to approve the new concealed carry policy during their regular public meeting later in the afternoon and added an amendment to review the policy in two years..

DCCCD’s concealed carry policy

The district’s new policy prohibits the use, possession or display of a firearm on college district property or a college district-sponsored or related activity which violates the law or district policy or regulations.

The new DCCCD concealed carry policy applies to all faculty, staff, students, guests, visitors, and individuals and organizations that do business with or on behalf of the district or its property. The policy does not apply to commissioned police officers, including the college district’s police department.

The district’s newly-approved concealed carry policy includes a list of definitions referred to in the text, plus specific conditions, areas and events where concealed carry is not permitted. Open carry is prohibited.

Specific conditions, areas and events where concealed carry is not permitted on DCCCD property are listed below; additional details provided in the policy for those items can be found in the new policy document online here: https://v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicItemDownload.aspx?ik=40642297 .

DCCCD concealed carry policy specifics

The district’s policy says this about concealed carry: “An individual who holds a license to carry (referred to as a “license holder”) may carry a concealed handgun on or about his or her person on college district property, including public driveways, streets, sidewalks or walkways, parking lots, parking garages and other parking areas, unless such carry is otherwise prohibited by state or federal law or this (DCCCD) policy. A license holder is responsible for complying with applicable state and federal laws related to the carry of a concealed handgun.”

Licensed holders may not carry a concealed handgun on college district property if they are intoxicated, and they may not intentionally or knowingly display a handgun in the plain view of another person, even if holstered. They are required to display their driver’s license, or identification certification issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety, and their license to carry when directed by DCCCD police officers, who have the right to disarm them in order to protect the license holder, officer or other individual.

Here are other areas, conditions or activities where concealed carry is not permitted under DCCCD’s policy:

DCCCD does not allow concealed carry wherever it is prohibited by law or by the district’s policy.

Concealed carry is not permitted by DCCCD in child care centers or polling places; at sporting or interscholastic events; at board meetings; where counseling services are offered; in healthcare facilities or in laboratories or areas where potentially hazardous materials are located.

DCCCD’s policy also does not permit concealed carry in locations where Pre-K-12 school or college district-sponsored programs or activities are located (or by Pre-K-12 personnel on the grounds or premises where the program, activity or camp is held); in fitness centers or in fitness facilities; in college district vehicles; or where prohibited by law or by contract.

Concealed carry also is not permitted by DCCCD’s policy at event-specific activities (such as college and high school graduations); during grievance proceedings; and in temporary exclusion zones (which involve specific factors detailed in the policy). DCCCD also will provide notices at all locations and activities where concealed handguns are prohibited by the district’s policy or by law.

Other weapons also are prohibited on college district property or at DCCCD or college-sponsored or related activities, including: the use, possession or display of any illegal knife or club; fireworks of any kind; incendiary devices; instruments designed to expel a projectile with the use of pressurized air (such as a BB gun); razors; chains; martial arts throwing stars; or the possession or use of articles not generally considered weapons, if they pose a danger to any DCCCD student, employee or district property.

The new DCCCD concealed carry policy includes the use of disciplinary action for individuals who violate the policy, up to and including expulsion, termination of employment, severance of a business relationship or criminal prosecution.

SOURCE Dallas County Community College District

MADD conference urges legislative changes

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) recently hosted a conference in Austin, gathering together major supporters with Texas State Legislators to share the findings of an annual report. The report, which focused on the effects that mandatory ignition interlock devices have on drunk drivers, showed the devices stopped nearly 350,000 unlawful attempts to start vehicles nationwide.

“We were meeting to garner support for HB 2089, SB 761, and SB 664, all of which ask for interlock devices to be part of any deferred to judication agreement that a court makes with an offender,” Ron Sylvan, MADD’s Affiliate Executive Director, said. “They would require a six month use of the interlock, and if the offender successfully meets all of the requirements of his or her court order stipulations, then the offense would be wiped from their record.

“We had a tremendous response. We rally our staff across the state. In Texas we have six affiliates, and the staff in those affiliates rally the victims in their authority. We all go down to Austin and start knocking on doors. It’s a long day, but we’re very driven by our mission. We visit every representative and every senator in the state of Texas, and we share our position on these bills and educate those legislators when needed.

“Another important piece of that legislation is if at some point after that the same offender offends again, then the second offense would be treated as a second offense,” Sylvan said. “In other words, it would enhance the offense, unlike current law, which would treat it as a first offense again.

“We know that interlock devices save lives, and we think that these are very strong bills. They are supported by defense attorneys across the state of Texas. We’re very hopeful that these bills will come to fruition and become law,” he said.

Sylvan mentioned some of the support the bills have in the Texas Senate and House of Representatives.

“The three bills mirror themselves,” Sylvan said. “James White is the sponsor of HB 2089. SB 761 is authored and sponsored by Jose Mendez; and SB 664 authored and sponsored by Don Huffines. Over the course of several weeks of conversations with a variety of people, MADD being included, district attorneys across the state, the support behind these bills is big, and we have high hopes for the bills passing.”

Even under the current law, the interlock devices have been responsible for stopping hundreds of thousands of drunk drivers.

“Here in Texas alone over the past ten years, interlocks have stopped 245,000 drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel and driving,” Sylvan said. “The numbers are significantly larger than when you look at the rest of the U.S.

“I think it’s important to focus on the current law, in which a first-time offender, as long as they don’t exceed .15 BAC, can opt for deferred adjudication without an interlock. They might opt to just have their drivers’ license suspended. Data research, time and time ago, show that 50-75 percent of drunk drivers continue to drive on suspended licenses, so it doesn’t really protect the public from those offenders. Thus, the importance of these bills that are being considered right now, would make it mandatory for those offenders to have interlock devices in their cars for a period of six months.”

MADD is focusing most of its support into making the interlock devices mandatory after a drunk driving conviction.

“MADD’s number one legislative priority is to have ignition interlock devices installed for all convicted drunk drivers,” Sylvan said. “Twenty-eight states and Washington DC have all offender ignition interlock laws as we speak. Again, data shows us that they save lives. That is our number one priority. What’s important is that we’re protecting the public from these offenders going out and causing any further harm to the general public.”

Sylvan mentioned a handful of individuals in attendance at the conference who have been directly affected by drunk drivers, including one Texas resident who lost his son to a drunk driver.

“That particular day culminated with a press conference that featured the authors of all three bills, as well as a representative from AAA, one of the local district attorneys, and a victim named Gary Hoff from El Paso who shared with everyone how an offender impacted his life. He happened to have a son named Garrett who was killed by a drunk driver, and he has become a huge advocate for MADD in terms of pushing for stricter drunk driving laws,” he said.

“This is a mission unlike any other. I’ve never seen more committed volunteers associated with any organization as I’ve seen with Mothers Against Drunk Driving,” Sylvan said. “These folks have certainly been touched personally by the issue, and are huge advocates for stricter legislation across the board trying to eliminate this crime. That’s where we want the general public to focus, that these are crimes, they’re preventable crimes, and that the interlock devices are just one step in preventing these crimes from happening a second, third, or fourth time.

“Our hearts go out to the victims of these senseless crimes. It’s really rare to go any day in the Metroplex and not hear something in the news in regards to a drunk driving crash,” he said. “The people who commit these crimes make a decision to get behind the steering wheel of a car and drive in an impaired state of mind, causing huge harm to many, many people in their own communities. We constantly urge the public to get behind us, and to keep reminding our judges, our prosecutors, and our legislators that this can be prevented.”

Public investment around DART Rail moving North Texas

A new study looking at the economic impact of publicly funded projects near the light rail stations of Dallas Area Rapid Transit demonstrates what economists and private real estate developers have seen for nearly two decades:  DART Rail is driving the North Texas economy.

Researchers from the Economics Research Group at the University of North Texas, led by Michael Carroll, Ph.D., looked at 11 public projects, like Parkland Hospital, the Irving Convention Center or the Hatcher Station Health Center between 1999 and 2015 and found those types of projects are valued at $1.8 billion. Combined with privately funded transit oriented development, $10.8 billion has been invested near or along DART’s 93-mile light rail system since 1999.

The updated study was presented at a meeting of the Urban Land Institute on May 11. Previous studies by UNT researchers looked at TOD projects like Mockingbird Station or CityLine and identified more than $7 billion in economic impact from new or planned construction within a quarter mile of rail stations.

Researchers concluded the projects studied “represent not only the region’s commitment to multimodal transportation options and an urban landscape that reflects the importance of those options, but billions of dollars in economic activity and tens of thousands of jobs throughout the region.”

“This proves the wisdom of regional leaders in building a regional transit network like DART,” Carroll said.

The 93-mile light rail system, the nation’s longest, was built at a cost of $5.5 billion. The most recent extension, three miles, connecting a renewed Ledbetter Station to the campus of the University of North Texas Dallas, opened Oct. 24.

“Public transportation transforms cities,” DART President/Executive Director Gary Thomas said. “It not only provides connections to great destinations; it can be the catalyst for economic growth and community renewal.”

SOURCE Dallas Area Rapid Transit

Byron Nelson tournament move triggers memories, impacts economy

Nostalgia marked this year’s AT&T Byron Nelson, which will be the last hosted in Irving, as players and tournament officials fondly remembered the historic golfer’s contributions to the tournament during its time at the TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas.

“What hurts me most on a personal level is the connection to Byron and working for him for ten years,” Diana Pfaff of the Irving Conventions and Visitors Bureau said. “He would sit on 18 and greet every player during every round as they come off the hole. He would sit there, even in his last year which was 2005. He was an amazing person. His tie was completely to this course.”

In the summer of 2013, it was officially announced that the Byron Nelson tournament would be moving to South Dallas, but talks of the tournament moving outside of Irving had been going on for years as outside clubs began pushing to win the event. Sponsors cited player concerns about the course as one reason for leaving Las Colinas.

“We’ve been hearing it for years,” Pfaff said. “We thought it would be Craig Ranch [Golf Club], because they’ve been trying to woo the tournament, but this took us completely by surprise.”

In 2013, Dallas City Council authorized a 40-year lease with the new golf course in a deal that involves the City of Dallas, AT&T, the First Tee of Great Dallas, and Southern Methodist University, whose school golf program will also use the course. That lease was contingent on the course entering into a 10-year agreement with the Byron Nelson.

The TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas had a contract to host the Byron Nelson Championship through 2018, but late last year both sides came to an agreement to end the contract a year early. The move prompted Irving officials to act quickly to make this year’s event special.

“We just found out this October that this was going to be the last one here,” Pfaff said. “We thought it would be next year, so we’ve had to really scramble to find funding, to reallocate funds, to be able to do what we wanted to do for a sendoff.”

Some of this year’s funds went to higher-end gifts for staff, media, and players. The most money was spent on Irving Live, a social-media activation area.

In 1997, the Irving Conventions and Visitors Bureau, in an attempt to keep the Byron Nelson in Irving, created a host city committee branded as “Irving Welcomes the PGA TOUR.” The initiative was aimed at enhancing the visitor experience around the event and involved staff and player housing, credential pick up, placing dinner reservations, and providing tickets to Stars and Mavericks games to the players.

“We were worried about the field dropping once Byron died, so we started a volunteer group called Irving Welcomes the PGA TOUR,” Pfaff said.

In 2005, ICVB had to disband the committee because of the economic downturn, but a lot of the services to the staff and players remained part of their responsibilities.

Trinity Forest Golf Club, the new home course of the Byron Nelson, is a 400-acre course built on land owned by the city of Dallas just five miles south of downtown. Formerly the site of an old landfill, the course was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw as a links style layout with no trees and little water. It is also only about ten miles away from AT&T’s downtown Dallas headquarters. Ironically, Crenshaw was the first winner of the Byron Nelson tournament when it moved to Las Colinas in 1983.

The city estimates that the tournament leaving will have a $40 million economic impact for the area. The absence of the tournament will also be felt among the players and staff, as this year’s sendoff included a party for volunteers and staff that had worked for 20 or more years with the event and a large number of party attendees had worked all 35 years at the Irving club.

The Las Colinas course also holds special meaning for the players. Jason Day, who finished second at this year’s event, earned his first PGA Tour victory at the 2010 Byron Nelson at the age of 22. Sergio Garcia shot a 62 at only 19 years old in his first round as a pro at the 1999 Byron Nelson. And Dallas-native Jordan Spieth regularly attended the tournament with his dad before teeing off as a 16-year-old junior in high school when he was just an amateur in 2010. 

“Mr. Nelson saw the greatness in these guys and gave them exemptions,” Pfaff said. “I know that they’re going to miss it. We’re going out on top as classy as we can possibly go out.”

Hoggies’ unforgettable rugby season

Last April the rugby team for the University of Dallas, known as the Hoggies, had their season end sooner than they would have liked – before spring break with a 1-6 record.

“It was very embarrassing,” said Matthew Kaiser, team manager. “We’d practice, invite our friends and families to the games, and we’d lose by like 40 points. Everything was extremely unorganized.

“Other schools that are bigger have fraternities or other social clubs. We don’t have Greek life here. This is the most proper form of fraternity, where it’s actually a brotherhood. This sport also has a certain kind of camaraderie that’s unlike any other sport.”

With the help of three new coaches, head coach Filip Keuppens, attack coach Dean Robinson, and defense coach Bruce McGregor, the Hoggies turned their game around and this year competed to an undefeated regular season.

“When [the new coaches] came, they brought a different team culture,” Kaiser said. “They emphasized personal ownership and positive thinking. In the past years, we’d get angry at each other for dropping the ball, but now we understand that if we make a mistake, [we need] to encourage each other to do better next time by basically analyzing ourselves.”

“All three of us used to coach the Texas Seniors Men’s All-Star Team,” Keuppens said. “Originally UD talked to Bruce. Then Bruce talked to Dean and me to get us back together again and bring positivity to this University of Dallas rugby team.”

The players worked all season with the coaches. They encouraged the players to become better men outside the game of rugby and to become better men for the game of rugby.

“Better men make better rugby players,” Keuppens said. “That translation applied rapidly within the team, and I’m very pleased with the work these boys have put in. We as the coaching staff wanted to start a positive winning culture, then focus on the fundamentals and basics of the game, and it paid off.

“Arguably with the same amount of talent from last year, it showed that they can work together to achieve a common goal. We taught them how to play for a team instead of for themselves. We took different approaches that we had and applied them to a university level.

John Houser plays the number four or five lock position, and emphasizes his drive and motivation. 

“I expected us to improve this year because of the new coaches,” Houser said. “Great coaches were what this team was missing. However, the history of this sport gives me drive and motivation when I’m out there on that field.”

Although the team did lose two games to Angelo State University in the Lone Star Conference Championship, they qualified for the National Small College Rugby Organization by beating the University of Denver on March 25, pushing their record to 16-2.

The team prepared to travel to Claremont, Calif. to play Claremont College in the PacWest Region Championship. However, because the team plays a club sport and not a varsity sport, the team faced financial hardship.

“We ran some numbers and realized that we had to get $20,000 to get everyone to California to compete,” Kaiser said. “We needed the money for food, transportation and lodging. We went to the club organization, and they said they didn’t have any budget left. It was the middle of the school year, and they didn’t expect us to make it this far.”

All the seniors and officers came together and brainstormed for two hours one night to come up with different things the team could do to raise the money.

“We ended up starting a GoFundMe page,” Kaiser said. “We started calling friends, families, alumni’s, and they started calling people they knew as well. It ended up being a ripple effect. The post got shared over 1,000 times on Facebook.”

With the help of the community, on March 27 the team was able to raise $10,000 in just 24 hours. Within the next four days, they reached their goal of $20,000.

“It blew my mind,” Kaiser said. “There were graduates who donated like $500. We had a guy donate $5. He said, ‘I love the Hoggies. I just wish I could donate more.’ Seeing that showed everyone on the team that this is real. People actually believe in us. He obviously was struggling financially but still pitched in five bucks. That was fantastic.”

On April 8, the Hoggies went up against Claremont College in the PacWest Regionals and lost 19-40.

“This loss was disappointing, but we’re still in high spirits,” Kaiser said. “This season is something we will never forget.”

Car care clinics to address check engine light

Arlington, Texas – When that dreaded check engine light comes on, your mind inevitably races as numerous questions start flowing through your head.

What does it mean?

How serious is it?

Can I still drive my car?

How much will it cost to fix?

You can get these and other questions answered at one of seven Car Care Clinics planned throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area in April. The North Central Texas Council of Governments partners with local automobile repair shops each year to help motorists address issues related to their vehicles. This is the second year for the clinics to focus on the check engine light.

When a vehicle’s check engine light turns on, there may be an issue that could negatively impact its emissions. Vehicles with check engine lights illuminated cannot pass the emissions portion of the State inspection. That means they cannot be registered.

These free clinics will provide drivers with an opportunity to talk to a technician about what may be causing the check engine light to come on and what may be required to fix the problem. Some vehicle owners may qualify for assistance with emissions repairs, if they meet certain income requirements.

A NCTCOG staff member will be on hand at each clinic to explain the AirCheckTexas Drive a Clean Machine Program, which will allow qualifying motorists to get their vehicles repaired for as little as a $30 copay so they can pass the emissions inspection.

Income requirements for the program are available at www.nctcog.org/airchecktexas. A family of four earning $73,800 or less, for example, is eligible for a repair voucher worth up to $600. Recipients’ vehicles must also meet certain conditions.

AirCheckTexas is one of many successful programs credited with helping the region improve its air quality over the past several years. Ten Dallas-Fort Worth area counties are in nonattainment for ozone pollution and are working toward compliance with the federal government’s standard.
Scheduled Car Care Clinics:

  • April 8, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Rick and Ray’s Auto Plaza, 2425 Cullen St Fort Worth, TX  76107
  • April 8, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Kwik Kar Auto Service & Repair, 1820 Brown Blvd. Arlington, TX 76006
  • April 12, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. Christian Brothers Automotive, 156 Interstate Highway 20 West, Weatherford, TX 76086
  • April 19, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. Burdick Auto Solutions, 210 E. Erwin Ave., McKinney, TX 75069
  • April 22, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Heller Automotive, 3104 S. Rigsbee Drive, Plano, TX 75074
  • April 22, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Castrol Express Car Service, 240 E. Ovilla Road, Red Oak, TX 75154
  • April 29, 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. Starkey Service Center, 18 W. Davis St., Dallas, TX 75208.

Dates, times and locations are subject to change. For more information and to confirm the details of the clinic near you, visit www.NTXCarCare.org. You may also email questions to NTXCarCare@nctcog.org, or call 817-704-5697.

SOURCE North Central Texas Council of Governments

Inmates help train difficult dogs

Photo: Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and an inmate of the Dallas County Jail promote the Homes for Hounds program. /Photo by Ariel Graham

A new program at the Dallas County Jail is designed to make dogs more adoptable, and inmates more employable.

Through the “Homes for Hounds” program, five dogs from the Grand Prairie Animal Shelter were taken to the jail for a five-week obedience-training course. Ten inmates, under the direction of a professional dog trainer, work with the dogs to teach them basic commands such as “sit” or “stay” and also to get them accustomed to being around people.

“We’re trying to find dogs that would otherwise be a little difficult to adopt,” Sheriff Lupe Valdez said. “The idea is to socialize the dogs so it’s easier to adopt them. Usually people don’t want to have a dog they’re going to have problems with. If we take that type of dog, usually ones who have been on the streets, and we socialize them, they’re easier to adjust and adopt.”

Once the dogs complete the program, they are sent back to the Grand Prairie Animal Shelter and put up for adoption. Five new dogs will then be sent to the jail for obedience training.

It’s not only the dogs that are benefitting from this program. The inmates also learn personal responsibility, accountability, and valuable skills that will help make them more employable upon their release.

Dallas County Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia explained that programs like Homes for Hounds are vital to reforming the criminal justice system.

“We need more programs like this,” Garcia said. “We need criminal justice reform. When you talk about improving things in the criminal justice system, this is what it is: programs that give not only the inmates the opportunity to go back into society and have some skills, but also let the animals go back into the shelter and make them more adoptable. It’s a win-win situation for everybody in the program, because it’s people helping animals and animals helping people. What better way to change the criminal justice system?”

Darrell Johnson is one of the handlers of Diamond, a 2-year-old Australian Cattle Dog mix. He recalled when Diamond first arrived at the jail, skittish and very anxious.

“At first, she was real scared when she first came in,” Johnson said. “I believe she was on the streets for a while before she came in here. But you’ve just got to show her love and compassion, and she will give herself into you.”

Johnson has five children of his own back home, and his experience as a father has been very helpful in training Diamond.

“I’m really used to this because of my children. Being away from my children for such a long time has really helped me doing this. That’s really the main reason I put in for this program,” he said.

As the inmates demonstrated skills they taught the dogs over the past few weeks, it was clear that the bond between inmates and dogs was strong. Johnson said that all of his fellow inmates in the program have become attached to the dogs, and that as much as the dogs have helped them become better people, they’ve also helped the dogs become better as well.

“Everything in my power wishes I could bring her home with me,” Johnson said. “She is a great dog. She has come so far, just like all these other dogs. If you were here when they first came into the park, they were all barking; they were out of their minds. But all you need to do is just show them some love and attention.”

Guide dog puppies begin basic training in Texas

Amy Smith was both nervous and excited as she walked in front of a crowd of well wishers and veteran guide dogs to accept Tomei, an 8-week old yellow Labrador puppy, as part of the Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) puppy delivery event at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on Thursday, Jan. 12.

Amy is one of six members of the Lone Star Guide Dog Raisers, the most recently established of GDB’s five puppy clubs in DFW. Members from all of the Dallas clubs and their guide dogs welcomed the new puppies, which were flown in from a GDB campus on the West Coast, to be raised for 15 to 17 months before being flown back for further training.

“We’re flying in puppies about every month, and we’re flying out dogs,” said Sandi Alsworth, a Community Field Representative for Texas. “We actually have two dogs leaving to go to formal training on the 21st. They’re both flying to our Oregon campus.”

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Guide Dogs for the Blind serves blind or low vision individuals throughout the United States and Canada. The organization, now the second largest school in the world of its kind, has been raising dogs since 1942 and has two main campuses, one in San Rafael, Calif. and a second in Boring, Ore.

Alsworth, who has been volunteering with the program for 15 years, takes on a number of responsibilities for the non-profit including looking after the group leaders and trainers, evaluating the dogs three to four times a year, and being on call for any type of emergency.

“I’m making sure that [the puppies] are attaining levels we need them to attain while they’re here and making sure they’re viable animals for our program,” Alsworth said. “If they’re having difficulties or if they’re having challenges, I give them special protocols to work with.”

Preparations for the raisers began months before the puppies were flown in and included a combination of classes, events, and hands-on dog-sitting.

“We’ve had a lot of different meetings that we’ve gone to,” Smith said, a former zookeeper at the Dallas zoo. “We had a three hour class for Puppy 101 where we got to learn a lot of the basic care and training. Since our club is new, groups like the Fort Worth group and Dallas group lent us some of their dogs that were in training, so we could practice with them. We’ve also puppy sat for some other dogs that are currently in training. There are lots of different ways of getting experience.”

After the initial classes and application, a home study took place to make sure the puppy’s new home was a suitable environment. If someone is not in a position to raise a puppy, GDB accepts volunteers for a number of other roles.

“We have a lot of people that can’t raise a puppy on their own and they’ve become puppy sitters for us,” Alsworth said. “We train everybody from the get go. We have local leaders and the guide dogs have staff support who are evaluating the dogs and assisting in the training.”

GDB functions entirely through volunteers and donations. The program does not charge blind or visually impaired individuals for their newly trained dog upon completion of the formal program.

“I liked that there’s no charge for the person that [the dog goes] to work with,” Smith said. “For a lot of companies or different groups, it can be upwards of $4,500 to get a fully trained service dog, but Guide Dogs for the Blind does not charge at all.”

GDB has been breeding dogs for over 75 years. Dogs are evaluated primarily on temperament and confidence. GDB uses only Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and a mix of both breeds know as Golden Labradors.

“We’re trying to breed for a calm, relaxed temperament, but a dog that’s confident enough to do the work,” Alsworth said. “They are going to be managed by a blind person, so this is a dog that’s not resistant to people handling them or touching them or manipulating them.”

Golden Retrievers are generally trained differently than their Labrador counterparts.

“It’s been cool to watch how different Goldens and Labs are,” Sophie Herran, a Golden Retriever raiser said. “[Golden Retrievers] are much more of a challenge. They’re more distracted, more sensitive, but they’re also very socially aware.”

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Becky Clark, a former professional dog trainer, is the leader of the Fort Worth group, a club that has eight dogs currently being trained.

Clark’s dog Sinead is on breeder watch, where she will be evaluated as a potential guide dog breeder. If chosen, she will move into a custodian home near one of the two main campuses. If not, she will be spayed and placed into formal training college, the period after the initial 15 to 17 months of basic training. Formal training generally lasts 12 to 16 weeks. Dogs that do not make it through this final stage are sent into another service such as working as medical alert dogs. Raisers generally receive another puppy only weeks after their last dog is sent into formal training.

“The hardest part is giving him back,” Clark said. “A piece of your heart goes with him. But then when they become a guide or a medical alert dog or whatever it is that they’ll be, it makes your heart swell even more because you’re so proud of them.”

Gen. Colin Powell speaks about education at McDermott Lecture

For the past 40 years, the annual McDermott Lectures have brought together the best and brightest in North Texas to reflect and discuss the problems that plague society. Named after the famed scientist and civic leader Eugene McDermott, the lectures have provided a platform for prominent writers, artists, philosophers, and educators, all sharing their experiences and expertise.

The 2016 lecture featured retired US General Colin L. Powell, a man who has held multiple senior military and diplomatic positions across four presidencies, and brought hundreds of people flocking to the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center on Tuesday, Nov. 1.

The topic addressed was the issue of educating young children, and ensuring they have the foundation of knowledge and character necessary to succeed in life. The opportunity to receive proper schooling is an undeniable boon to a child; the lecture stressed that these children will go on to not only help themselves, but to help the communities they live in.

Some shocking statistics gathered by the Commit! 2015 Community Achievement Scorecard predict a bleak future if the current standards of education in Dallas County are not changed. Of every 30 students who arrive at their independent school districts, only 17 will be ready for kindergarten, only 10 will be at their required reading level by the third grade, and only 4 will be ready for a career or for college by the time they graduate from high school.

This shows that 86 percent of students will not be prepared to continue on to college. These same statistics reveal that by the year 2030, 60 percent of Dallas County adults will need to complete some form of education beyond high school in order to meet the county’s workforce needs. These numbers show that, as things stand, the county’s needs will far exceed what public education is currently capable of producing.

General Colin Powell shared many details about his efforts to make a difference in the lives of American youth, and expressed that one thing he has learned himself is that children succeed when they are made to feel valued. A person taking an interest in a child’s life, whether it is as a tutor or to simply read to the child before he or she enters the school system, can make a great deal of difference. Just the simple act of reading to a child highly increases the likelihood that they will be reading on level as they progress to secondary education, which ultimately increases the number of students who will move on to college level education.

Dean Joshua Parents of the University of Dallas’ Braniff Graduate School of Liberal Arts, in a statement released prior to the event, indicated that the continued efforts of educators and their supporters have a profound effect on the children they teach.

“Recognizing that teachers are a vital, and often underappreciated, force in maintaining the strength of our nation, we cultivate the principles of learning and virtues of mind and heart that flower into excellence in their life’s work,” Parens said. “Each teacher’s influence, especially on students in their earliest phases of human life, can be felt for generations.”

Parens went on to discuss how critically important education is in the early stages of a child’s life.

“Quality early education can make all the difference in the life of a child. Our society needs few things as much as it needs excellent teachers, prepared to form both intelligent, skillful members of society and flourishing human beings, capable of becoming agents of change, forces for good, and virtuous citizens throughout the course of their lifetimes. It is one of Braniff’s highest aspirations to support the good work of educators across North Texas, as we strive together to improve our nation,” he said.

Ultimately, as Gen. Powell and the other speakers of the McDermott Lecture explained, the duty of helping pave the way for our children’s future should be a joint effort between teachers, parents, and the wider community. The act of investing in the youth of Dallas is something that will not only benefit them and their families, but the wider county as they join the workforce.

Trinity Forest Golf Club to host AT&T Byron Nelson in 2018

Dallas, Texas – The AT&T Byron Nelson and the PGA TOUR recently announced the tournament will move to Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas in 2018.

Located 10 minutes south of Downtown Dallas, Trinity Forest Golf Club is an 18-hole, links-style course designed by former PGA TOUR player Ben Crenshaw and renowned golf course designer Bill Coore.

The 2017 AT&T Byron Nelson will be played at Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas in Irving on May 15-21.

“Our mission to transform kids’ lives has been the heart of what we do since 1920 and that cause remains central to all our decisions about the AT&T Byron Nelson,” said David Watson, AT&T Byron Nelson Board Chair. “We are forever grateful to Four Seasons and the City of Irving for a long, prosperous partnership that has enabled us to raise over $150 million for Momentous Institute, impacting over 100,000 lives. We look forward to our tournament’s future and continuing to change the odds for kids.”

Momentous Institute is the nonprofit owned and operated by the Salesmanship Club of Dallas. Momentous Institute has been building and repairing social emotional health in kids since 1920.

“Improving lives and charitable giving were central to tournament namesake Byron Nelson’s beliefs, and the PGA TOUR is committed to these ideals in the communities in which we play,” PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem said. “We are excited to continue our partnership with AT&T and the AT&T Byron Nelson in the City of Dallas starting in 2018. The move to Trinity Forest Golf Club will have a positive long-term impact on thetournament and those served through Momentous Institute.”

AT&T, the tournament’s title sponsor since 2015, is also based in Dallas.

“This is a special sponsorship for us because it benefits Momentous Institute and thousands of children right here in our hometown of Dallas and beyond,” said Lori Lee, AT&T Senior Executive Vice President and Global Marketing Officer.

 

SOURCE AT&T Byron Nelson