By Aidee Sierra
Paul Quinn College student
Member of Duke Bass Connections team in Dallas, Texas
After a fun-filled weekend at the Dallas Zoo, and attending an outside concert, it was time to get back to business. On Monday, we were invited by Gail Terrell to attend a community meeting that was to be held at the Southcentral Police station. At this meeting we had Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins, City Manager A.C. Gonzalez, Chief of Staff Adam McGough, and many more members of the community as well. In this meeting we were able to truly hear the concerns that the community had. One thing that stood out was that no one really mentioned anything about health. We did hear many things on how to develop the socioeconomic issue that is faced in the Highland Hills community. Many questions were answered and from what we heard, Highland Hills and Southeast Oak Cliff will be thriving in the near future.
Tuesday was a new experience for many of us. We were given the opportunity to tour the McCommas Bluff Landfill, which surprisingly has a good view of the Dallas skyline. From our campus at Paul Quinn College, we are sometimes able to get a whiff of the landfill. Our Duke partners pointed out that you could see the top of the landfill from the street that is in front of the Paul Quinn College’s dorm. At 10 a.m. we were greeted by two employees, one who was the environmental coordinator, Takele Dinka, from the landfill that gave us a quick history about the landfill and how it functions. We were taken all around throughout the landfill. We were able to see the active site, which is where trucks dump the trash, and then it is compacted and then covered with dirt. I believe this is the site our Duke partners saw from the Paul Quinn College campus. We were told of how they are moving towards the goal of recycling more of their waste. We were also told that there were deer, bobcats, hogs, and other wildlife living past the levee.
After several days trying to recruit community members, we finally had a successful meeting where we got three great participants. They are lively and great spirited people and are also excited to help us work on our project. They are passionate about having a voice and how their voice can make a difference in the Highland Hills community. While eating a delicious meal that was cooked by our very own Deb, we were able to help our participants with any questions about the project or about the cameras. We cannot wait until Tuesday to see what pictures they took!
Wednesday was a productive day for us. We were able to go and reserve a location for our exhibition. The Tommie Allen Recreation Center in Highland Hills is a place where many of the community’s youth go after school to hang out. The rec’s manager, Janet Sharpless, was also very helpful by suggesting that we go back to the center so she could introduce us to some young people that would be interested in helping us with our project. After reserving the location, a group of us headed back to the Paul Quinn College campus for our interview with the President, Michael Sorrell. He was kind enough to let us film him for our documentary that is about Highland Hill’s past, present and future. After "Prez" gave us a few lectures and tips on how to continue our project, we headed back to the recreation center to meet with the young people who were suggested to us for our project.
When the kids and young adults sat down for our meeting, everyone seemed a bit nervous at first. As we introduced ourselves and what our project was about, I noticed that everyone was feeling more comfortable. After explaining what our project was about, several of the teenagers among the group seemed to be excited about the project. As we were starting to talk more about what everyone’s definition of health was, a young boy asked the group if they could take a picture of someone doing drugs, because that made them feel unhealthy. It made it clear to me that this project will not only help the future of the Highland Hills community, but also the future of the young people that live here. Another young man said that school made him feel healthy because it kept him safe and away from people that are doing drugs or selling drugs.
After yet another successful meeting, the Duke members and Paul Quinn members headed to Braum’s for some delicious ice cream and then we went to eat a wonderful dinner that was cooked by our very own Danielle.