These neighbors give their time to improve the lives of Lake Highlands’ youth. From after-school programs to mentoring and providing meals, the children of our neighborhood receive the compassion and service they need.

Photo cred: Danny Fulgencio

In 1970, Nina Simone released the song, “To Be Young, Gifted and Black.”

Those were the words Vince Gaddis grew up on. His schoolteacher mother had these words in her classroom, and the neighborhood where he grew up had high expectations.

“We were taught that, and we believed that,” Gaddis says. “That’s what drove us, and so regardless of what happened, we would go back to that.”

Now he drives the “Change Bus” for the nonprofit he founded in 1995, Youth Believing in Change.

The bus picks up children from school, brings them to tutoring and feeds them. The nonprofit has provided 28,000 after-school meals and 110,000 summer meals over the past 24 years. They serve 150 kids of varying ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds about 310 days a year.

Youth Believing in Change almost wasn’t.

Gaddis was working for the Greater Dallas Community of Churches in 1995, when two national tragedies struck: The Oklahoma City bombing and the death of Tejano star Selena.

“I want to help people, and they’re just killing people en masse,” he recalls thinking. “This is it; I can’t do this anymore.”

That week, a little girl named Laura Flores gave him a thank-you letter for coming to her school.

“I had never felt that feeling of affirmation in my entire life,” he says. “It was really what I had been living for, but I had never found it, never felt it.”

That’s when Gaddis decided to devote his work to helping children.

“There was like this seed inside of me that begin to swell up even more and more,” Gaddis says.

Youth Believing in Change is a “no-flunk zone,” he says.

He wants all of them to graduate from high school and enter vocational school, community college, university or the military.

Gaddis says the program’s students have gone to work in ministry, public service and armed forces. Some have gone on to pursue master’s and doctorate degrees.

Some former students have come back with their own children. Gaddis keeps scrapbooks on his desk that look like they’re straight from the ’90s. He flips through them and recalls field trips, events and students.

“If you don’t have something that makes you toss, turn, toil and labor through the night, then you probably have nothing to look forward to the next day,” he says.