Dallas ISD's Turner 12 students beat the odds

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Twelve students from Dallas ISD’s Lincoln High School returned Monday night from a mission trip to Mexico.

The need to help others as they help themselves is part of their worldview being shaped in the Turner 12 Project.

Coach John Carter believes if you invest in a child, the investment will pay off. So in 2000, he started the Turner 12 after learning that only six kids from South Dallas' Turner Courts housing project had gone to college over a ten-year period.

The housing project is gone now, but the mentoring project by the same name continues. And this year is the project’s third graduating class.

Ramona Canzales is one of a dozen Lincoln High seniors rehearsing for a graduation gala for students who've walked a different path since middle school as part of Coach Carter’s Turner 12.

“Begin to mentor them in hopes of them understanding the importance of education,” the coach said. “Embrace what education can do for them in their lives and prepare them to become first generation college graduates.”

In this year’s Turner 12, two students are heading into the military and ten have full scholarships totaling more than $600,000.

Evelyn Morales is valedictorian with a full ride to Texas Christian University.

“It was a great blessing from God,” she said. “Coach Carter always told me, ‘I’m proud of you,’ and supported me and the Turner 12 as well my family. So it was more of them to help me to improve.”

The Turner 12 are also improving the lives of others. They just got back from a mission trip to a tiny town in Mexico where they built a house for a family of five.

Kortrijk Miles is headed to New Mexico State on an athletic scholarship.

“I came back knowing how to build a roof because that’s what I was doing,” he said. “So it was really, really fun. I’m blessed and I know the family is blessed.”

Just as Miles helped build that house in Mexico, Carter helped build him academically.”

“Enrichment on our math and reading writing skills; it’s really helped me,” Miles said. “I was a C student. Now, I’m an A and B student.

The trip was a teaching moment for Kametrea Williams, who got a scholarship to the University of North Texas. She is learning to overcome differences, not use them to build walls.

“Even though there was a language barrier, I was able to connect with the middle child. We had similar dreams,” Williams said. “She was worried about how she was gonna pay for college, and I’m like that was me. I was thinking that.”

Judson Stone's company supports Carter as he challenges these kids

“To experience the joy of seeing what their potential is and growing in their lives as human beings,” Stone said.

These students built with hope for homes to give a family new life. It’s what the Turner 12 Project is doing for twelve students six years at a time.

The kids who become part of The 12 have to go through a screening process. There are fun moments, but it’s not play time. It’s a six-year commitment to become successful.