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More Money to Grow South Dallas

BJ Austin

Another Dallas company has signed onto Mayor Mike Rawlings’ Grow South Community Fund.  That’s two down and eight to go for the mayor.

Mayor Mike Rawlings wants 10 local companies to invest $50,000 each in his Grow South Community Fund.  He now has two. Highland Capital Management has joined Comerica Bank on the list of donors.   

Highland’s $50,000 will hire a social services coordinator for Zumwalt Middle School, one of four South Dallas schools the mayor adopted.  He says students can’t effectively learn if they’re hungry or dirty. And he told the story of one 7th grade boy who hit the principal’s radar when he showed up at school with a dirty uniform.  

“She started asking questions,”Rawlings  said . “He’s homeless. He and his mother are homeless. He had a birthday Friday and Mrs. Farmer had him out to her house with one piece of birthday cake. It breaks my heart.”

Rawlings says the social services coordinator will make sure that students get the help they need outside of the classroom so they can perform inside.

Highland Capital co-founder Mark Okada says investing is his business and the Grow South fund is a good opportunity.

“I challenge all the other companies in the city to get behind it and put some money where their mouth is,” Okada said .  “There’s nothing that really helps us become a better society and a better competitor with the rest of the country and the rest of the world really, and that’s having better schools.”

In addition to schools, Rawlings also wants to fund will go for demolition of vacant homes to clean up blighted neighborhoods and small business initiatives.

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.