Priscilla Beltran, Cullen Bryant, Reggie Mensah and Barbara Raygoza. Not shown: Kate Moseley, Deonta Taylor, Riley Lewis, Elizabeth Chandler and George Chandler.

Lake Highlands High School reps on the Mayor’s Rising Star Council (MRSC) met Friday with fellow members from high schools all over Dallas – each appointed by their local city council member. Wildcats on the MRSC include Kate Moseley, Deonta Taylor, Riley Lewis, Elizabeth Chandler, George Chandler, Reggie Mensah, Barbara Raygoza, Priscilla Beltran and Cullen Bryant and gather once per month to hear from speakers about the inner working of Dallas and on other occasions for scheduled volunteer projects. On Friday, they heard from Dallas Park Board Chair Bobby Abtahi.

“He told us about ways we can incorporate parks into our lives,” said Reggie Mensah, president of the LHHS senior class, “and what we can do to add more parks to our community and make them more accessible.”

If you’d like to hear more from Abtahi, you can listen to the All (Dallas) Politics is Local podcast, where he spoke to T.C. Fleming, here.

Cullen Bryant, a junior on the MRSC, said he thinks learning between adult speakers and students is a two-way street.

“It goes both ways. They come in and educate us on how things work, then they take what we say and draft things and make things happen.

Mensah agreed.

“They take us seriously because we have a different perspective – a younger point-of-view – on how to change the community. They love listening to what we have to say.”

“They see us as the next generation,” said sophomore Barbara Raygoza. “They keep telling us, ‘you’ll be the ones making decisions in 10 years.’ They’re really trying to teach us and mentor us. They see we want to be involved, and we don’t just learn from them. We learn from each other – kids from other schools, other communities. They don’t have the same problems as we do.”

The Lake Highlands students agreed that living in the City of Dallas and the Richardson ISD gives them a unique perspective.

“Last year we were talking about our schools, and some students were saying they couldn’t drink the water,” recalled Bryant. “Someone else talked about petitioning because their school was poorly maintained. That’s something I couldn’t imagine.”

Part of the program involves visiting each other’s campuses, an experience the students called eye-opening.

“There’s a lot to be grateful for at Lake Highlands,” said Mensah. “There’s so much community involvement, and a lot of school spirit and unification. It’s almost like its own city – Lake Highlands, Texas. I appreciate that. It also opened my eyes to see that LH is somewhat segregated. I realize it’s not perfect.”

Beltran, a freshman, said she has worked to spread the lessons she’s learned to other students. She created a service club called Voices to help teens be more involved and find volunteer opportunities on campus and in the community.

“Before I met [Councilman] Adam [McGough] and Christie [Myers, MRSC’s project manager], I felt like I couldn’t do anything – like I was just a freshman. They introduced me to [DISD Trustee] Miguel Solis and so many other people who have helped me. Now, I feel like I can do anything.”

“We can make a difference through the small things,” agreed Bryant. “As high school students, some things may not seem reasonable to accept, but they’ve given us examples of kids in the program before us and inspired us to reach for things we didn’t think were possible. We’ve had inspiring speakers, including people like Mark Cuban. Some said they started high and stayed high, but others started low and worked their way up to help their children have a better life. It’s good to see that things are possible.”

Mayor’s Rising Star Council