Emmitt Smith leads tour of youth center under construction in Arlington

Posted Thursday, Mar. 14, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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ARLINGTON -- Emmitt Smith was all smiles Thursday afternoon as he led a tour of North Texas Youth Education Town, a Super Bowl XLV legacy project under construction at The Salvation Army in Arlington.

It wasn't just because of his fond memories of The Salvation Army in Pensacola, Fla., where he played organized football for the first time as a 7-year-old and met a long-lasting role model. The NFL Hall of Famer, who is chairman of the project, was excited about the opportunities disadvantaged area children will receive at the center.

"It will transform their lives for a lifetime," he said. "We want to make it the best of all the Youth Education Towns in all the cities that have had a Super Bowl."

Funding for the 8,000-square-foot renovation inside The Salvation Army building at 712 W. Abram St. includes a $1 million grant by the NFL for the city's role in hosting the Super Bowl in 2011, a $1 million grant by the Gene and Jerry Jones Family Arlington Youth Foundation, and support from the Super Bowl XLV Host Committee.

Youth programs will include nutrition education, career exploration, dance and theater lessons, homework assistance, tutoring and even a Dallas Cowboys Fitness Zone. Sponsorships are available for the various classroom and activity rooms and for other areas of the site.

Planned programs for adults include child care, legal assistance, counseling, employment support and financial education.

"We want the parents to stay and participate in programs for them," said Salvation Army Lt. Patrick Jones, who along with his wife runs the Arlington family and community center. He said 200 to 300 children at a time will be served when the facility opens this year.

The YET center, which will be the first one operated by The Salvation Army, will focus on disadvantaged children in the 76010 ZIP code but will be open to people from across North Texas.

Members of the Arlington school board and city council, as well as Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos and Mayor Robert Cluck, were among those on hand for the tour.

"We don't educate children alone," Cavazos said. "We rely on our partners to help us meet the needs of the community when we consider our strategic plan."

Cluck said it's important to help disadvantaged children envision a bright future and prepare for it.

"When they come here, a lot of them are without hope and without a home," he said. "By the time they're through, they have hope."

Now a father himself who watches youth coaches have a positive effect on his children, Smith said community funding is vital for projects like this.

"Someone did it for us," he said, referring to his childhood. "Without the assistance of somebody who cares, like The Salvation Army, some of these things wouldn't be possible."

Patrick M. Walker,


Twitter: @patrickmwalker1

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