New boarding facility should help southern Dallas students

South Oak Cliff will soon offer students the kind of educational experience enjoyed by wealthier families.

The AT LAST! boarding facility will soon provide housing and resources to students while they attend public schools.

Businessman Randy Bowman and wife Jill Louis, an attorney, are excited to see a love of community and passion for education come to fruition.

A groundbreaking for the complex that has a unique approach to pulling families out of poverty happened Tuesday afternoon.

“AT LAST! is an urban boarding experience. What it seeks to do is ensure that impoverished kids have the same educational resource and tools from three in the afternoon until eight the next morning that more prosperous kids have in their households,” Bowman said.

AT LAST! is not a school, one reason why donors like the Hoblitzelle Foundation are investing in this outside-the-box approach to learning.

“This really struck us as a way to impact not only a part of town, but a group of a families and students that were motivated to use the public school system,” said Katie Robbins, Hoblitzelle Foundation.

First through sixth grade students will live on site with access to academic support, technology and life skills instruction. Meals and other necessities are included, all at no cost to parents.

“This is a problem that I lived, not one that I heard about. And it’s really my recollection of my mother’s struggles as she tried to raise four kids in Pleasant Grove under tough circumstance,” Bowman said.

Neighbors are more than interested in the idea.

“You don’t have to worry about whether or not you are going to get off at nine o’clock and still get home to assist kids with homework or get them to other social activities. As far as a single parent is concerned that is a big deal,” said parent Rose Perez.

Cornell Lacy grew up in the neighborhood, went to SMU and is now a teacher. He knows firsthand the importance of the right influences at a critical time.

“To have the messages that we try to instill in our students at school be reflected at home as well, that’s just going to double the effect in terms of it lasting and hearing those same recurring messages over and over,” Lacy said.

AT LAST! will start with 16 boarders, with plans to add buildings and expand to 180 students over the next five years. The facility is set to open in January 2020.