ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – A North Texas mayor and an NFL Hall of Fame member joined in to do a little demolition work on Tuesday.
Emmitt Smith and Mayor Robert Cluck wielded full-size sledgehammers to bust up a wall at The Salvation Army in Arlington. The symbolic gesture launched the construction of the region’s very first Youth Education Town.
As the crowd counted down, “Three… two… one!” Smith, Cluck and the vice president of the Dallas Cowboys knocked down a mock wall with words like obesity, drugs, gangs and illiteracy written in graffiti. The fallen wall revealed goal oriented artwork with phrases like “open hearts,” “praying hands,” “active minds,” and “healthy bodies.”
“I felt like Ronald Reagan back there. ‘Mr. [Mikhail] Gorbachev tear down this wall,’” Smith said afterward. “I have very little experience at knocking down walls… outside of the walls of my own personal life, like some of these young kids who [sic] are facing today. It’s nice to tear something up and not get in trouble for it,” he said laughing.
Smith heads the North Texas Youth Education Town. The project of Super Bowl XLV will renovate Arlington’s 38,000 square-feet of Salvation Army space and build an additional 8,000 square feet of space.
“You have to pay a price for anything in life that you want. You have to make necessary sacrifices and young people need to understand that,” Smith said. “This is not an entitlement situation. This is an opportunity and I think if parents and young people look at these as opportunities and get their kids involved in some of these programs then maybe we can see turnaround in a persons life.”
When the newly constructed/renovated center is complete a variety of programs will be offered there. Mayor Cluck said the center will reach hundreds of kids who may lack opportunities.
“This big building is going to be dedicated to education for those who are the most needy in our community.”
When it opens next summer the new center will serve between 400 and 600 disadvantaged kids a year, with a menu of activities including sports, dance, photography and homework assistance.