The Path to Transforming Veterans and Dallas Public Schools

Apr 6, 2018

April 6, 2017

Finding That Connection

“I felt for the first time like we were on the same page while volunteering for the service project,” said Nissa Salas, a Mission Continues volunteer in Dallas.

Nissa met her husband Mark Salas after he had separated from the U.S. Marine Corps. Nissa noticed Mark had a hard time relating to her and to other civilians. “He had only one or two friends, and did not trust anyone. His habits were very much military-style and he was shut down from any social activity,” she said.

At the recommendation of their counselor, Nissa and Mark tried volunteer service with The Mission Continues.

Nissa describes their first project. “Our first assignment was painting a computer lab at the Interfaith Housing building, when my husband had just experienced knee surgery. We participated while he was on crutches, and my husband had a smile on his face the entire time.”

Soon they went to another project, and another, and another.

“We have built houses, repaired school yards and also made a homeless shelter wing for veterans look better,” Nissa reported.

Nissa sees the connection Mark makes with other veterans, but even as a civilian, she feels it too. “We like the people there, and have often felt that they were like family. My husband has expressed that he can easily relate to the other veterans, like Margarita Soto.”

Former Platoon Leader Margarita Soto at a service project

U.S. Army veteran Margarita Soto led the Dallas 1st Service Platoon for three years. Even after she’s passed the baton on to the next veteran, Tymon Kapelski, she is still involved with the platoon. Since Margarita joined the platoon in 2014, she’s attended more than 50 service projects, and at least five additional projects outside of Dallas.

Knowing You Have an Impact

Roger Q. Mills Elementary students at a service project with Mission Continues volunteers

It’s not just about connecting with other veterans that drives these volunteers — it’s knowing their work has an impact. For Margarita, “Helping kids in Dallas is the most rewarding experience in my life.”

The Dallas 1st Service Platoon’s mission is focused on The Roosevelt High School Feeder Pattern and the outlying community for their multi-year operation. The Roosevelt feeder schools serve 26% of the disadvantaged students in the Dallas Independent School District.

City Impact Manager Rahiel Alemu said, “Our Dallas Platoon has projects that not only beautify and enrich the local schools but also create positive activities and service opportunities to engage students and their families with veterans.”

“The spirit of service and duty has been contagious throughout this partnership,” said Tonya S. Clark, Principal of Roger Q. Mills Elementary — one of the service platoon’s partner schools.

She has seen how collaborating with the platoon has helped her in her own mission to improve the school. “Mission Continues staff listened to our greatest hope for our school community and took a collective impact approach, working with our teams to plan projects, connecting with other organizations, and sharing resources to make our ‘hopes’ a reality,” said Principal Clark.

Principal Clark explains the difference these projects have made. “There is plenty of research that shows when parents are involved at school, the performance of all the children, not just their own, tends to improve.”

“The Mission Continues has directly impacted our campus volunteers, offering another opportunity for parents to get plugged in. Many of the parents who volunteered in our first Mission Continues event have become regular volunteers for other school-wide programming and events.”

City Impact Manager Rahiel Alemu and former Platoon Leader Margarita Soto at a service project

The result is an educational experience where parents, teachers, and volunteers work together to not only show youth that they are important, but also models for them how to be collaborators, leaders, and mission-driven thinkers.

Partnerships like the one between the Dallas 1st Service Platoon and Roger Q. Mills Elementary have the potential to enhance the learning experience of countless youth — and the reintegration experience of countless veterans looking to connect.

Fueling this impact is Dallas 1st Platoon’s Lead Sponsor, Wells Fargo. Their support makes impact like this possible.

Like Nissa, Mark, Margarita, and Tymon, you too can report for duty. Veterans and non-veterans can get involved in a few different ways. You can register for an upcoming service project in your city, donate, or help us spread the word about our work.

Report for duty in your community with The Mission Continues. Serve with a Service Platoon at an upcoming service event near you or apply for a fellowship. You can learn more about our programs on our website and stay updated on the latest news and announcements on Facebook and Twitter.

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