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Football a chance for Fort Worth players to fight adversity, stigma

Many college coaches during the recruiting process don’t hesitate in asking a prospective student-athlete from the city if they have had any gang affiliation.

It’s a question most of the kids in the suburbs generally aren’t asked.

It’s not fair, but it is reality still in a day when the nuisance of gangs in urban areas is more stereotype than reality. As it concerns Fort Worth’s Stop Six neighborhood, the gangs “are nothing” like they were a generation ago.

Yet, the gangs are still around, often leaving the innocent emotionally marked in their wake.

A gang-related shooting on campus during Dunbar’s junior varsity game against Eastern Hills last week left one injured and students temporarily rattled, but likely more fearful of the permanence of a stigma that too often accompanies growing up in an area where gangs thrive in lower-socioeconomic settings.

Stop Six is a proud community with history and heritage to embrace and live up to. That’s very useful for kids seeking the self-esteem to achieve in a world that believes they can’t. Stop Six also has a high school, Dunbar, carrying out its mission through the inspiration of its namesake.

“What Joe Hamilton lacked more than anything else in the world was someone to kick him,” wrote Paul Laurence Dunbar, the master of prose who made his name in the late 19th century. “Many a man who might have lived decently and become a fairly respectable citizen has gone to the dogs for the want of someone to administer a good resounding kick at the right time.

“It is corrective and clarifying.”

During the varsity game last Saturday, players from the Wildcats and Highlanders joined hands and walked out to the field together, standing side-by-side across the field during the national anthem, an apparent act of defiance in telling the forces of bad will that they indeed intend to live decently and become respectable citizens.

This week, homecoming festivities during the Wildcats’ game with Carter-Riverside at Clark Stadium will feature scores of Dunbar alums who can demonstrate the value of living good lives. All scheduled events are on as planned, coach Todd Lawson said.

“Dunbar High School is a great place to be,” said Lawson, not only the football coach but an alum as well. “I’m not just saying that. Deep down inside it prepares you for the real world. Not everything will be handed to you. Or sugar coated. It’s going to be a fight, a grind. If you love the grind, you’ll be fine.”

It’s also safe.

Before last week’s game, Lawson spoke to the Eastern Hills team. His counterpart at Eastern Hills, Tracy Simien, spoke to Dunbar.

Lawson’s message to the Highlanders was the same as to his own team: It’s times like this you have to decide what you want out of your life. If you want to better yourself, make sure you keep away from people who have the character to carry out such a crime.

Days like Thursday of last week are also timely reminders of why it’s easier said than done in getting teenagers to make the right decisions.

Though the Fort Worth schools aren’t competing with gangs for kids like 25 years ago, it suffers from two incurable ills if not addressed: lack of participation in extracurricular activities and parental support, a crucial element in nurturing young adults. Many students are required to work, an issue that complicates the problem.

Parental support is a problem that has dogged the Fort Worth school district (and they’re not alone) for years and for many schools it’s the difference in having a winning program or not.

“Our biggest problem comes from our kids who are not involved,” Lawson said. “It’s trying to get parents to understand we need your kids involved. And they say, ‘Well, he wants a job.’ I understand he wants a job and that’s fine. But if he doesn’t need to pay bills at home, he can become something here.”

Dunbar enters its game this week having battled adversity all year at 1-5 overall and 1-2 in District 8-5A.

The Wildcats, though, are still working and still growing to believe in their team and in themselves. It might be cliché, but true character reveals itself when things aren’t going well.

“That’s what I preach to our young men,” Lawson said. “ ‘I’m going to keep getting after your behind, but this is life.’ When things aren’t going your way how will you react to it? That’s what we’re trying to do here at Dunbar and that’s what Dunbar is about.”

Players of the Week

Granbury senior running back Michael Mulholland is the dfwVarsity football offensive Player of the Week for Week 7. Arlington Bowie sophomore safety Ty DeArman is the defensive Player of the Week. A total of 37,961 votes were cast.



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