Students keep up their end of pledge

September 8, 2009 3:09:46 PM PDT
About five years ago Mayor Bill White challenged students to stay in school and dozens promised they would. Now they've been rewarded for their achievement. Students who took this pledge say just knowing someone was invested in their success made it easier to stay in school and to work hard. Today their mentors celebrated the achievement by throwing them a graduation party.

For Brittany Datson, graduating from high school wasn't always an expectation.

"I can't tell you how many funerals for people my age I've been to," she said.

Her years at Jack Yates High School were filled with obstacles most adults would struggle to overcome. Her parents lost their jobs and her father passed away.

Datson said, "My mother was the type of parent that whatever we needed, we had it. But you can tell in the house when you're trying to stretch a dollar to make sure that your lights stay on and your water stays on."

Along with the support of her family, there was something else that kept Datson going -- a promise to Mayor White. In 2004, Datson was one of 50 HISD students who were at risk and signed a pledge to the mayor promising to graduate. The mayor's office expected a large percentage to do so and all 50 of them did.

Mayor White said, "Every time you change one life that should be counted as a success."

Datsun is now a freshman at Lamar University.

She said, "They invested in us. They didn't treat us like we were some kids. They looked at us as like positive, like we are valuable."

To reward the students for fulfilling their pledge, several charities partnered with the mayor's office to give them a graduation present. It includes a computer, dresser, desk and a bed. Datsun says the new dorm room will help keep her on a path to success.

"To me it was like I was a little piece of coal and they seen the diamond," she said.

She is working toward a career in human resources and she knows her father would be proud.

"I'm in college," Datsun said. "That's what he wanted me to do. I'm going to make it."

The Hashoo Foundation, the United Way and several local businesses teamed up to pay for all of those graduation gifts, which will be delivered to the students' homes and dorm rooms this fall.

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