Elementary students at campuses across DISD are given senior shirts as part of the I Will Graduate program.

Elementary students at campuses across DISD are given senior shirts as part of the I Will Graduate program.

Talk to anyone who attended elementary school in East Dallas, and you’ll find a trove of nostalgia. A group of students who attended Victor H. Hexter together in the 1950s still has lunch almost every Wednesday, a chance to share memories and compare notes on how the neighborhood has changed in the past 60 years.

“There are a number of us who have remained friends from Hexter since the first grade,” says Judy Burnett, who first started at the Waterview Road school in 1955. “Back then, very few kids moved around [for school], so Hexter was full of the same kids from the neighborhood.”

It’s that love of the school that led the Hexter lunch bunch to donate the funds needed to outfit dozens of young students with t-shirts as part of the I Will Graduate project.

Meant to inspire kids to stay in school and begin planning for their future at a young age, the project gives each child a shirt with their expected graduation year and school based on their feeder pattern. For example, first-graders at Hexter will get Bryan Adams High School Class of 2028 shirts, which on the back features the colleges where Dalla ISD students have been accepted, to show all youth they can achieve their educational goals.

“What we liked about it was the sense of pride it inspires in the kids for their schools,” Burnett says.

This is the second year Burnett and classmates Dr. Paul Neubach, Arnaldo Cavazos and Harry Walker have donated the funds needed to cover Hexter’s I Will Graduate shirts. “We all just advocates of public education,” she says.

Burnett likes to attend the day the shirts are passed out to students, happening this month, to see the delight on their faces but also to visit her old stomping grounds.

“It’s really fun to go and sit in the auditorium again,” she says. “It’s so small, but I remember it looking so big.”

Campuses across DISD take part in the I Will Graduate project, most of which is funded by private donors or businesses.

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