James Guess: Dallas’ Forgotten Neighborhood: Why Education is Critical for West Dallas


While Southern Dallas continues to receive the majority of attention from real- estate developers and city officials, West Dallas, an area of 23,000 residents waits anxiously in the economic background for change.

There is hope for this area of Dallas, although poor performing schools and an uneducated workforce have led to persistent poverty (44 percent of residents below poverty level), run-down real estate, and tenured drug dealers. It is no wonder that 66 percent of the residents age 25 or older lack a high school diploma and a jaw-dropping 95 percent have less than a college degree.

Four years ago, I clearly remember selling hip-hop clothing to the local residents from the trunk of my car at the Inwood/Hampton road car wash. It was there that I witnessed a community in chaos.

However, after delivering a speech to roughly 70 juniors and seniors of L.G. Pinkston High School last month, it was there, approximately a mile from that same car wash, that I witnessed that change is coming to West Dallas.

L.G. Pinkston has become a Career Pathways School, which allows students to earn college credit from their chosen field of Law, Public Safety, Health Science, Architecture, and Construction while still in high school. As I inspired the students with my personal story of fallen high school basketball star, to troublesome twenty year old, to successful entrepreneur, I saw curiosity and a willingness to learn in their eyes, instead of resentment and boredom.

“You are not going to talk to us about government are you,” stated a female Pinkston junior. “Of course not,” I replied, “I’m going to talk to you about money, wealth and how to cross over that Trinity River Bridge that separates you and West Dallas from the rest of the world into success.” She displayed a curious smile as she sat on the front row, waiting for the rest of the students to arrive.

As I asked questions regarding the concepts of supply and demand, and scarcity, and handed out money for the correct answers, I immediately captured every student’s undivided attention.

Ms. McCollister, Associate Principal-Teaching and Learning stated, “I cannot believe that you were able to get 70 Pinkston students’ attention that fast and for that long.” Having once had the mentality of those students, I decided to use a method I learned from Dale Carnegie: To capture and maintain their attention, I simply gave them what they wanted – relevant learning and an exciting way of delivering it!

Across the street from L.G. Pinkston High, Dallas County Community College District is building the El Centro College West Dallas Campus. A few blocks north, West Dallas Community Centers just opened the doors to its new headquarters. These organizations are anxious to help West Dallas’ youth develop dignity and self-respect, and to become adequate to meet life’s encounters in a reasonable manner.

With the Trinity River Project coming, land values continue to increase and emerging real estate development has sparked the building of $100,000 homes. The ingredients for the revitalization of West Dallas are apparent:

  • educational reform and access will create an educated workforce and jobs
  • higher incomes can lead to savings and capital to start businesses
  • real estate development and new homes will attract higher income residents.

Local community centers and schools reshaping the minds of the youth will help break the cycle of poverty, decrease high school dropout rates, and discourage community destructive behavior. For West Dallas, its been a longtime coming, but finally, change has come.

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