Lost and found

Poor, brown, and inner-city. These Adamson High School kids weren't supposed to make it. They did anyway.

"I had some friends from my neighborhood who were at Adamson, and they told me it was smaller and there were some good teachers who cared about you. So that sounded good to me. I transferred over there after four days at Sunset."

His career at Adamson was a major success. But like Cabrales' mother, Grimes' mother did not want him to go off to the university at Austin.

"My mom wanted me to stay in Dallas and live with her, maybe go to UTA or something. She didn't want to let me go. That's part of the reason I did go to Austin. I love my mother very much, but I felt it was time for me to go out and experience the world. The longer I stayed at home, the harder it would be for her to let me go."

I survived Adamson High School: Armando Monsivais
Mark Graham
I survived Adamson High School: Armando Monsivais
One of the oldest and smallest high schools in Dallas, Adamson has become a meeting ground for today's minority students and the white alumni of yesteryear.
Mark Graham
One of the oldest and smallest high schools in Dallas, Adamson has become a meeting ground for today's minority students and the white alumni of yesteryear.

Grimes told me that the academic load at UT was tough, but he was well-served by study habits he had developed in high school.

"In high school, rarely did I ever take a book home, because I always finished my homework first so I could play later. I did the same thing here. I always did the work first. We would sit up in the dorm until 2 a.m. and talk about everything, every night, but a lot of times it was 2 in the morning and my friends hadn't done their work yet. I always did mine before I talked."

I had lunch at the Steak and Ale on LBJ at Skillman with Glenn Straus, Grimes' mentor from the Adamson Foundation. The restaurant is a few blocks from Straus' business, a high-end commercial real estate appraisal firm that operates all over the nation. Straus has been an active member of the Adamson Foundation for some years. Last year he founded a new entity, the Adamson Alumni Association, which already has 456 members and has raised $25,000, mainly in small donations, for the scholarship fund.

He told me with a certain indignation in his voice that a young reporter, doing a story on the Adamson Foundation for a daily newspaper, had asked him something like, "Why does an old rich white guy like you care about these minority kids at Adamson?"

"Can you imagine him asking me that?" he said.

I said yes. It was pretty much what I was wondering myself.

He explained a little bit about the Adamson Foundation. It was started with money donated by a series of unmarried elderly and retired former Adamson teachers. Sonia Cabrales is on the board now, but for a long time it was made up exclusively of white graduates of Adamson from bygone eras. When it began to have serious money to hand out, the foundation established a rigorous system of interviews and assessments, and it was in that process that the board members began to know the kids who are at Adamson today.

Straus talked about Grimes.

"You know, a math teacher just pulled him aside one day and said, 'You are college material.' He was kind of like, 'What's college?' And look at him now. Just knowing someone like Anthony makes you realize that in every community there is a top echelon that is going to succeed no matter what."

Straus was protective of Grimes' privacy, but I could tell he knows chapter and verse on him -- girlfriend issues, family stuff, the kinds of things a man knows about a son.

We talked a little about the small universe that the Adamson kids tend to live in -- Cabrales' remark that she never knew how big the world was until she went to Austin.

Straus told me this story: "When I was a senior at Adamson in 1958, we didn't take SATs. We took the University of Texas entrance exam. It was given at Hillcrest High School. We were supposed to be there at 8 a.m. on a Saturday.

"So about five of us loaded into a friend's old Chevrolet and drove over there. We had never really been out of Oak Cliff. We didn't even know how long it would take to get there, so we left too early and got there about 7 a.m.

"To kill time, we just drove around in that area on Royal Lane and looked. Those were the biggest houses we had ever seen in our lives. We started driving up and down the east-west streets between Hillcrest and Preston.

"I am telling you, there was silence in that car the whole time. All five of us were speechless. That's when I realized what a sheltered life I had led."

Going back to Adamson now, finding kids like Sonia Cabrales and Anthony Grimes and showing them a window on the world outside Oak Cliff, has been a life-changing experience for him, Straus said.

"This has been about the most rewarding thing I've ever gotten involved in," he said, "and I can't even tell you why."

Grimes talks about the small-world issue too. One of his best friends at UT was a young man from a wealthy San Antonio family. They sat up until the wee hours night after night in the dorm, trying to help each other understand who they were and where they came from.

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