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Hospitality, Tourism Program Restores Kimball High's Pride After Years Of Low Ratings

Lara Solt
KERA News special contributor
Kimball High School Academy of Hospitality and Tourism students are fitted with suits to interview in while on a field trip to Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas.

Poverty is surging at Kimball High School in Dallas. Fifteen years ago, 57 percent of the families were economically disadvantaged. Today, it’s 83 percent. The Oak Cliff school is battling those numbers and turning around a dismal academic record — in part with its hospitality and tourism program.

Delores White not only teaches a hospitality class for juniors at Kimball High but also runs the school’s four-year Academy of Hospitality and Tourism.

“We’ve been here for 10 years,” she said. “But we didn’t actually start thriving until, let’s say, four years ago.”

White’s not shy — that’s when she took over. Under her direction, the program has earned “distinguished” status from the National Academy Foundation. She says this program helped restore pride in Kimball. That’s after the state ranked the school academically unacceptable for five out of six years.

“We were academically underperforming,” she said. “Because of this academy, we raised the bar. “

The National Academy Foundation partners with schools in high-need communities in 36 states and demands tough academic and professional standards.

Kimball has been challenged by a growing number of charter schools. White’s confident about her program.

“Charters – I might consider them as being the competition,” she said. “Not great competition though.”

Students like Kimball senior Shai Johnson aren’t shy, either.

“This academy has given us just a big advantage over everybody else,” Shai says. “I feel like there’s no job that I can’t go out and get myself. I’ve been taught how to speak in an interview. My resume looks good.  They’ve taught me so much about creating my own business, how to work well with others.”

White is all about preparing students for college and business. For many kids, it’s a way up and out.

Explore the full story on Kimball High in KERA's American Graduate series, "Race, Poverty and the Changing Face of Schools."

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.