Graduating seniors Desmond Beazer and Devin Pineda met in a seventh grade advisory class they shared at Lake Highlands Junior High. On the surface, Pineda, a reserved academic from Thurgood Marshall Elementary, and Beazer, a confident athlete from Wallace Elementary, didn’t appear to have much in common. By the time they hit Lake Highlands High School, they were best buds.
Beazer and Pineda will continue their friendship next fall when they enroll at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin. They’ve each earned an Apple Pre-Ed Scholarship, which covers tuition, fees, room and board during their freshman year and includes an option to renew during subsequent years. The awards have a potential value of $100,000 each and are part of the 100 African American Male Teacher Initiative to encourage young Black men to give back to their communities by becoming educators.
Matthew Morris, an alum of Huston-Tillotson who worked with both scholars as a teacher in the LHHS AVID program and is now Lewisville ISD’s Director of Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion, says the young men’s success is particularly rewarding. Beazer and Pineda are not the typical students who tend to be showcased, with grade point averages in the top ten and layers of leadership and honors on their resume.
“I believe there is beauty in highlighting young men like these,” says Morris. “They didn’t always make the best choices, but they remained driven. Their experience shows how great the Lake Highlands community is, and it changes the narrative about young men in our society.”
Pineda’s dad wasn’t around much, and his mom did the best she could to provide for Devin and his four siblings. He got a job his sophomore year to help dig them out of their financial hole and begin to save a little for his future.
“The money was a good help, but it began to feel as if I was going to be stuck in a maze,” says Pineda. “I’d find myself falling asleep at random times during the school day, worried I’d be trapped in this form of modern-day slavery for the majority of my life.”
Pineda realized going to college was his “golden ticket to a place of freedom,” and earning a scholarship was his only shot at going to college.
Beazer, too, says he had trouble envisioning himself in a college classroom.
“I didn’t really like school, but I like to gain knowledge. Being in school gives me an agenda to do so.”
Beazer played football and ran track as a Wildcat, but he’ll hang up his cleats to study mathematics at Hutson-Tillotson. He thinks the lessons he learned on the field will help him in with his studies.
“One thing that I can certainly take away from sports is to trust others and listen when someone is trying to help and to teach you.” He says it would be nice to return to a Lake Highlands-area campus to “teach the youth that are from the same place I grew up.”
Both seniors have advice for younger students who, like them, aren’t sure they are capable of making it to the next level in academia.
“The road won’t always be smooth, but you will get to where you want to go. Engage in opportunities, even in ones that may not be what you’re interested in. All opportunities are gateways to success, you just have to take action,” assures Pineda. “Everyone doesn’t achieve success the same way or utilize the same steps. Another pinch of advice is to gravitate yourself towards individuals who want to make you better. Let them hear your worries.”
“I don’t want the youth to think that college is mandatory for success,” advises Beazer. “Instead, it should be seen as a tool you can use for success. Personally, college is a way to find yourself if you didn’t do so in high school and expose yourself to the world before you have to fully dive into it.”
Both men say they are grateful to be starting their new journey with a familiar face by their side. But that doesn’t mean they won’t be seeking every new adventure university life has to offer.
“The best advice given to me by Matthew Morris, our amazing teacher and mentor, was to start becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable,” says Pineda. “What I took from this advice was that I needed to put myself in situations that I’m not used to – including individuals I’m not used to being around – and learn to adjust. I plan to fully engage in meetings, conversations and events to expand my socialization to let people know who I am.”