DALLAS –- A large group of Dallas students got a chance to meet a Longhorn legend who has a long list of football records on the field.
Former University of Texas at Austin quarterback Vince Young is making important impressions off the field; looking back and sharing his experiences as a college student as motivation to help encourage seniors at South Oak Cliff High School.
He met with the senior class to urge them to stay focused, strong, and smart as they get ready to go to college.
While some members of the school's senior class say college is an option, Frank Byers, Jr. and Olando King say the number of college-bound peers could be greater.
"Some of them don't try," Byers said. "They don't care about it."
Byers and King are student athletes who are excelling in the classroom. Like many of their peers in South Oak Cliff High School's top 10 percent, these teens will also be the first in their families to go to college.
"It's a privilege," King said. "If I succeed in college and go all the way, people behind me will try."
It is that sense of determination that had a large group of students gathered in the school's library on Tuesday afternoon, listening closely as Vince Young spoke about the endless possibilities for those who make college an option.
"Right now, y'all know a lot of our young generation — young men, young ladies — are dropping out," Young told the students.
After retiring from the football field, Young is now working with the University of Texas, helping the school inform high school seniors about scholarships available for first-generation and low-income college students.
"I want you all to become successful young men and young ladies," Young said. He said he agreed to visit students on behalf of his alma mater because he is passionate about education.
"Kids need attention, and sometimes they don't get it at home," Young said. "Sometimes you see them act out in classes, and sometimes do things that their teachers and moms wouldn't want them to do. So to me, I want to let them know that I was that kid, too."
According to the Texas Education Agency, South Oak Cliff High School's graduation rates have been lagging since 2011. Data show the school's graduation rate was 80.3 percent in 2011. The number declined to 77.2 percent in 2012.
The campus graduation rate was 69.8 percent in 2013.
New administrators at the school say they are working hard to turn things around right now.
So are determined students like Byers and King, who are among five males graduating at the top of their senior class.
"I dedicated myself to hard work, and knowing that it will eventually pay off — no matter how long or the process may take," Byers said.
South Oak Cliff High School is the first campus Young has visited in his new role with UT's Division of Diversity and Community Engagement.