DALLAS — There is a certain sense of excitement around the newly renovated South Oak Cliff High School right now.
Students and staff call the campus the anchor of the community. Administrators describe the school as the hub driving a renaissance, or rebirth of sorts, in the neighborhood.
A new mural was unveiled outside the school on Friday. The words "STILL WE RISE" are boldly displayed along the wall in the parking lot. The mural was designed by students, with the help of artist Michael McPheeters.
“It really, sort of, paints a picture of the community and just everything that we believe in, and everything we stand for,” said student Daniel Mendoza.
Images painted in the letters of the mural highlight some of the school and City of Dallas history, including protests from 2015 where students lead walk-outs and demonstrations demanding better conditions and equitable resources. The mural also recognizes SOC’s strong connection to academics, sports and culture.
“It tells diversity. Everybody in the community is involved in something,” said student Leslie Ramos.
The theme 'STILL WE RISE' includes embracing neighborhood beautification. The Texas Trees Foundation is partnering with the school to help students plant trees around the campus. The organization is also offering free trees to residents.
The community efforts are also extending a few steps away from campus. Crews are preparing for the grand opening and ribbon-cutting of the new South Oak Cliff Renaissance Park on Overton Road.
“What you’re looking at is the quintessential, perfect scenario, of blight remediation,” said Derrick Battie, South Oak Cliff High School community liaison.
The park used to be a wooded dumping ground and haven for crime.
SOC’s principal, community liaison, and school board trustee said they advocated for a park. They pitched it to Dallas City Council. The Trust for Public Land made it happen.
“I remember vividly thinking it has to be a better use of land. We have to repurpose this land,” said the school’s principal, Dr. Willie Johnson.
Supporters said these community efforts are about making an impact and rising above circumstances.
The official ribbon-cutting for South Oak Cliff Renaissance Park at 405 E. Overton Road will be Saturday, Nov. 13 at 10:30 a.m.
Neighbors can find out more information about picking up free trees by visiting https://www.texastrees.org/.