July 20, 2020
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The University of North Texas at Dallas' latest community-centered project is teaming up with one of Dallas' most famous names, Emmitt Smith, the NFL's all-time leading rusher.

These days, Smith is running a real estate company, E Smith Legacy, that's leading the way on the redevelopment of a 30,000-square-foot building on Lancaster Rd. The project is bringing in community-focused tenants that are committed to providing services and jobs to the local community, including Cedar Valley Community College and Guru Financial. UNT Dallas' Community Youth Development Rising Blazers project, funded by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, will house a portion of its program in the development.

“UNT Dallas is pleased to join E Smith Legacy in this exciting and socially responsible revitalization project that promises to bring much-needed jobs to neighborhoods located near our southern Dallas campus," UNT Dallas President Bob Mong said. "The UNT Dallas Community Youth Development program will be housed in this space, allowing us to reinforce our commitment in southern Dallas and fulfill our mission to strengthen communities by creating pathways to socioeconomic mobility."

The CYD program is co-led by UNT Dallas' TRIO and Pre-Collegiate Programs, and the School of Behavioral Health and Human Services. While the pandemic has eliminated the possibility of in-person programs at the moment, it hasn't stopped the CYD from beginning to fulfill its mission in southern Dallas. The Rising Blazers Virtual Summer Institute, a free online camp for students ages 13-17 and their parents, is currently running through Aug. 7.

The program recently received high praise from local news stations here and here.

"The Rising Blazers Community Youth Development Program provides an array of services such as mentoring, youth leadership development and after-school programs to promote protective factors in youth and prevent negative outcomes such as juvenile delinquency," said Nakia Douglas, the executive director of TRIO and Pre-Collegiate Programs at UNT Dallas. "The CYD Rising Blazers Program will provide mental health, academic and social/ emotional support through community collaborative programming for students within the Dallas area."

Douglas said the CYD program will specialize in a nontraditional, engaging and holistic educational experience for students, their parents and families in the surrounding community. The current virtual summer camp will help prepare students and their families for life during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The overarching goal of the CYD program is to provide a vision, framework and holistic plan for each student to attain a high school diploma and collegiate degree in order to become active participants in society. 

The UNT Dallas program has engaged in numerous community partnerships to make th virtual camp and other programs possible, including Carter's House, Fast Fists Martial Arts, For Oak Cliff, Mark Cuban Heroes Center, Urban Leader Fellows, Yoga N Da Hood, Youth Revive, DFW Urban League Young Professionals and the UNT Dallas Career Services department. Additional community organizations will come on board for future programs with the Rising Blazers CYD grant.