The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU students gather around a bucket of markers to write an encouraging note to put in “Welcome to the Shelter” kits at event in mid-April on SMU’s campus.
Dallas homeless recovery center, The Bridge, is a home
Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024

SMU Alum helps at-risk Dallas students shine as “All Stars”

 No baseball spirit in Dallas
No baseball spirit in Dallas

2003 SMU Alum Betsy Ortono helped launch After-School All Stars. (Courtesy of After-School All Stars)

Every 26 seconds, a student in the U.S. drops out of high school, according to recent CNN reports. That’s 7000 students a day. Almost 50,000 kids a week. Over 2.5 million a year.

In Dallas County alone, more than 100,000 children between the ages of five and 13 are without adult supervision at home after school.

“It’s this lack of attention to what students are doing after school,” Betsy Orton said. “That causes these alarming statistics.”
A 2003 SMU alumna, Betsy Orton, helped launch the North Texas chapter of After-School All-Stars, a nonprofit program dedicated to keeping middle school-aged kids in school and out of trouble.

“I realized from SMU, and from my professors there,” she said on the subject of her career, “that nonprofit was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

Orton was a Corporate communication and public affairs, now known as communications studies, major at SMU with a focus on nonprofit organizations.

After Betsy graduated from SMU, she got her first job working for the American Red Cross in marketing. She was working at the foundation during Hurricane Katrina and served more than a thousand New Orleans refugees who lost their homes in the storm.

“It’s an experience that I will never forget,” Orton said. “And one I never want to forget.”

After leaving the Red Cross, Betsy moved on to the Texas Tree Foundation, and was eventually recruited by the After School All-Stars, or ASAS, program.

Now, as the Executive Director of ASAS, Orton has the responsibility of overseeing 354 fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth graders at KIPP TRUTH Academy in South Dallas.

The middle school students spend an hour and a half each school participating in after school activities. These activities include art classes, dance classes, theatre classes, martial arts, basketball and more.

“It’s so exciting for the kids,” Orton said. “They’re getting an opportunity that they’d never have otherwise.”

Ninety six percent of students at KIPP TRUTH accept either free or reduced cost lunches. Orton said that statistics show a majority of the families who send their children to KIPP make less than $20,000 a year.

“What we aim to do is providing a dance class for a little girl who knew she could dance, but had never thought she’d have the chance to join a group,” Orton said. “Things like that.”

Next fall, ASAS hopes to team up with more DISD middle schools in South Dallas to help combat the high dropout rates and low test scores.

“We would love to work with all of the schools in the area, but we just don’t have the capital to do that,” Orton said. “So we have to settle helping the few we can.”

The reason that After-School All-Stars focuses on middle schools is because the eighth to ninth grade jump is the most susceptible time for a student to drop out of school.

“Elementary schools and high schools have all sorts of programs to help at-risk kids,” Orton said. “But middle schools just seem to fall through the cracks.”

The program also provides events for the students. On Friday, Jan. 25, the All-Star Classic Basketball Tournament will take place at Duncanville Field House. Over one hundred students are expected to participate in the free competition.

ASAS believes the tournament, sponsored by Fox Sports Southwest and MetroPCS, is a chance for students to gain recognition that they may never have had before.

“Every kid should have a medal hanging in their room that they can be proud of,” Orton said.

To some of the kids, the program might mean shooting hoops for an hour. To others, it’s a place to sit down and study without the distractions at home.

“To me, it’s all about making a difference for the kids, for their families, for the school and for the organization,” Orton said.

The After-School All-Stars program is based out of Los Angeles, Cal. The North Texas chapter is the thirteenth in
the nation.


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