2023 All-America City – Dallas, TX

The City of Dallas has a rich history of youth activism and engagement. The Dallas Youth Commission was founded in 1994 to provide a much-needed voice for students with the purpose of addressing and advocating for issues of importance to youth wellbeing. As highlighted in its All-America City application, Dallas is committed to keeping Dallas a Welcoming City to immigrants, leveraging partnerships to promote meaningful youth civic engagement, and supporting and growing a sustainable cultural ecosystem that ensures all residents and visitors have opportunities to experience arts and culture. 

Dallas Youth Commission Youth Strategic Plan 

The Dallas Youth Commission is a 15-member board consisting of high school students that provide a voice for Dallas youth and bring change to the community. Since its inception, the Dallas Youth Commission has spearheaded various initiatives that include youth forums, community service events, crime prevention programs, an anti-smoking ordinance, and a youth resources guide. The Commission has also focused on increasing student voter registration and turnout in local and national elections.  

Below is a breakdown of some of the commission’s key initiatives:  

  • The Dallas Youth Magazine encourages youth leadership and community involvement by featuring the work of 40 students to a distribution of over 40,000 high school students. 
  • The Teens For Dallas Grant financially supports youth organizations and clubs in exchange for completing community service projects throughout Dallas. The initiative has awarded 10 organizations with grant funds and participated in community-wide cleanups and tree planting initiatives. 
  • The Community Closet initiative provides personal hygiene products to high school students who cannot afford them. Since opening, it has served 300 students and collected over 85 boxes of hygiene products. 
  • A Town Hall for Teens was hosted by the commission to bring teens together to discuss issues that directly affect them. Local elected officials were in attendance to answer questions about areas of concern such as police and youth relations, social media and professionalism, and voter registration. 
  • The Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program (MIFP) provides students with an eight-week paid summer internship in industries of interest. The program has provided over 3,500 students with internships, work-readiness training and leadership development. 

Welcoming Dallas Strategic Plan  

Immigrants have contributed significantly to the population growth of Dallas, with two in five children having at least one immigrant parent. To support the social incorporation of immigrants and refugees, the Welcoming Dallas Strategic Plan was unanimously approved by the city council in 2018. Through the Welcoming Dallas strategic planning process, city staff engaged community residents to understand challenges inhibiting immigrants in Dallas. It is through this process, that city was able to identify the greatest barriers to immigrant and refugee integration as fear of immigration enforcement due to heightened federal policies under the previous administration, lack of English language skills, poverty and lack of resources, lack of transportation, and lack of affordable housing. To address these needs, the plan prioritizes celebrating the contributions of immigrants, promoting equitable access to government services, strengthening trust with law enforcement and government leaders, increasing access to ESL and legal services, and offering economic empowerment and youth enrichment opportunities in multiple languages. 

The City of Dallas has made significant progress in integrating immigrants and refugees into every aspect of city life through civic engagement and has been certified as a Welcoming City by Welcoming America. Some achievements include: 

  • An official Welcome Week and Proclamation 
  • A Community Resources Hub 
  • Welcoming Task Force convening 
  • A Ramadan dinner celebration 
  • Human Trafficking Awareness 
  • Culturally Competent Community Engagement 
  • An Enhanced Library Card 
  • Collaboration with Dallas Area Rapid Transit 
  • A Dallas Language Map 
  • Hosting Naturalization Ceremonies 
  • A Community Ambassadors Program 
  • Increased Voter Access 

Dallas Cultural Plan 

In 2017, the City of Dallas launched a cultural planning process to improve access to arts and culture. Following a year-long process with over 150 public, committee, and taskforce meetings that engaged nearly 9,000 Dallasites across the city, the new Dallas Cultural Plan was unanimously adopted by city council and includes six priorities: Equity, Diversity, Space for art, Support for Artists, a Sustainable Arts Ecosystem, and Communication. The Cultural Organizations Program (COP) contracts with established non-profit arts and culture organizations that adhere to these priorities. Examples of funded programs include:  

  • Dallas City of Learning (DCoL) is a partnership between Big Thought, the Dallas Mayor’s Office, Dallas Independent School District, and local and national organizations to provide free and low-cost learning experiences that cultivate creativity, build social and emotional skills, and boost academic achievement. In 2022, the DCoL network impacted 22,632 unique participants through 1,308 programs offered over 1.4M cumulative learning hours. 
  • Artivism empowers teenagers to express themselves and advance social issues through the creation of visual and performance art. 84% of youth said that this program helped build confidence, and 83% said that “because of this program, I can better express my ideas and feelings.”  
  • Creative Solutions is an arts-as-workforce intervention program for youth in the juvenile justice system, ages 10 – 17, who have been referred by their probation officer. The program offers year-round sessions at Dallas County Juvenile facilities and a 7-week summer intensive at Southern Methodist University. Its trauma-informed approach aims to improve job skills, promote positive self-image, and increase social and emotional development. Creative Solutions has achieved an average recidivism rate of 10% compared to the average rate of 38% among other intervention programs


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