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Otis Gray forges a future for local youth

When funding for the mentoring program at a local middle school fell through, Otis Gray was indefatigable in his efforts to make sure the students didn't suffer the same fate.  He kept the program alive through fundraisers, benefits and private donations.
When funding for the mentoring program at a local middle school fell through, Otis Gray was indefatigable in his efforts to make sure the students didn't suffer the same fate. He kept the program alive through fundraisers, benefits and private donations.
Courtesy of Otis Gray

Inspiration can manifest in the form of a silent nudge from within or as a result of being touched by external examples. Certain individuals exude passion and zeal to an extent that those around them are infected by a compulsion to do good. Fourth-grade teacher Mary Duncan sparked the flame in a young Oprah Winfrey that would eventually ignite a cultural phenomenon. Dr. Benjamin Mays planted a seed in a 14-year-old student at Morehouse College, a seed that would soon blossom into unparalleled greatness within Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Only time will tell what will be accomplished by those inspired by Otis Gray.

When budget cuts threatened the existence of the MODEL Mentoring Program out of Greiner Middle School, he didn’t throw his hands up in defeat; an indefatigable Otis Gray worked to keep the program alive. The students benefitting from the program are already deemed at-risk; Gray recognized the value of stability and refused to let go of an opportunity to inspire them to aspire.

His efforts proved successful. A Zumbathon was held in January. Let’s Dance for our Future, a dance and music production, was held at Kessler Theater in February. Through these events and others, along with private contributions, Gray was able to extend the MODEL Mentoring Program nearly a year. He’s currently cooking up a couple more schemes to revive the waning organization once again.

As evidenced by the nature of the aforementioned fundraisers, Gray applies his passion for and background in the arts to reach out to others. He studied music at SMU on a full scholarship; there he earned Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Music Education degrees. He was awarded a grant from the SURDNA Foundation, which he used to study under Rebeca Mauleon. He called upon his resulting expertise to develop the nationally-recognized Latin music program at Booker T. Washington High School.

Hobbies and extracurricular activities can lead to passion and passion often leads to productivity. Not all children are afforded the opportunity to excel and goals are therefore set low. Gray supplies an environment where students can thrive. He helps them discover a better version of themselves. He helps them find their own unique voice. Sometimes somebody just needs something to believe in, work for and strive towards. When that need is fulfilled they’re prone to transform from the inside

Otis also incorporates arts education in citizenship classes and salsa lessons. He sings “Schoolhouse Rock” with his citizenship students. His salsa courses, held in Highland Park, North Dallas and Oak Cliff, don’t just go over footwork and patterns; they also address the nuances of salsa music and history. Additionally, he’s served as Chair of Talent Competition for three consecutive years at SMU’s Hispanic Youth Institute symposium, a four-day event aimed at increasing awareness of higher education and making college accessible to everyone.

He happens to be the kind of father who takes his daughter to see NKOTBSB live in concert – twice in one year. Snapshots taken at the concert reveal a proud father beaming from the inside out, genuinely relishing their quality time together.

He’s the kind of person who can’t tell you why he does what he does. The skilled orator was rendered speechless when asked. He’s not one to toot his own horn. Why would he not do what he does? It’s simply part of his nature. That is perhaps his most endearing quality.

The Texas Rangers recognized Otis Gray as a “Hero in the Hispanic Community” in 2006. I concur. Besides, who am I to question the Texas Rangers?

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