Students find benefits to Uplift Luna’s Deep Ellum location

By Eboni Haynes, 11th grader, Uplift Luna Preparatory Secondary School

Deep Ellum glows as night falls. Groups of adults crowd narrow streets as cars try to navigate through the active night scene. As people make their way into local restaurants, dance clubs and concert venues, they stop to view the many murals and sculptures that dress up Deep Ellum.

When the night life ends, the scene in Deep Ellum changes to something different. Teens in white and navy uniforms hangout on Elm Street the same way adults did hours before.

The traffic is no longer due to the avid nightlife in Deep Ellum, but due to the parents of nearly 500 scholars at Uplift Luna Preparatory-Secondary dropping their children off at school.

The teens’ presence in the neighborhood extends into the afternoon, as they purchase lunch and snacks from Twisted Root Burger Co., Subway and 7-Eleven. Other neighborhood restaurants such as Glazed Donut Works and Fuzzy’s Tacos even employed students and often cater school events.

Besides providing job opportunities, Deep Ellum’s art scene has had an impact on the students. Several students have contributed their art skills to the community. The graphic design class designed light pole banners that were placed around Deep Ellum last year. The school’s name was placed on each banner to remind visitors of their presence.

The art club, which consist of more than a fourth of the school’s population, allows students to connect with local artists. One of these artist was Dallas-based Jessica McClendon. All eyes were zoned on her as she scrolled through her artwork and described her techniques.

McClendon, who is mixed race, said her art became a safe space when she felt pressured to conform to one culture over the other. The school tries to bring in diverse artists like McClendon, since they can easily connect with its student body that is 74 percent Hispanic.

“We are all individuals with a story unique to us,” McClendon says of how she uses art to connect with her heritage.

The photography club also lets students interact with Deep Ellum’s art scene. They allow students photographers to try different photo techniques and capture different people and building art every week, which are used for personal portfolios and contest entries.

The theatre club goes to various plays and collaborates with local playwrights to develop workshops such as stage fighting and costume art.

Some residents in the area find the school to be a good asset.

Brent McKinney, a Deep Ellum resident, landed a job at the school as the junior research and technical writing teacher.

“I never pictured myself in this position,” McKinney said.

He began as a substitute at Uplift Luna in 2016, but after he bonded with several of the students, he said that he felt compelled to turn that into a full-time career.

Students said they love the area. Some might not agree with the uniform or that only seniors are allowed to eat off campus for lunch, but most students said the neighborhood is beautiful.

“There’s really nothing as creative and as diverse as Deep Ellum,” said 16-year-old Damion Breedlove.

Gabby Gomez backed Breedlove’s comments by saying the Uplift Luna’s Deep Ellum location adds to the creative minds at the school.

“Everything in Deep Ellum is out of the ordinary,” the 17-year-old said. “Just walking down the streets. A large hat statue. A sculpture from car parts. As far as I’m concerned, the idea of a school in Deep Ellum is out of the ordinary and that’s why it fits so perfectly here.”