ICE, ICE Babies

SMU kids learn about life outside The Bubble

In the meantime, the ICE program continued to grow, and now includes courses on "social ethics" that require students to perform at least three hours of tutoring or mentoring in low-income neighborhoods. "The house is the symbolic center of what ICE does," Levy says, but "we run our tutoring programs throughout East Dallas." Much of the work is centered on Robert E. Lee, but the program's 135 tutors--100 in work-study, 35 in course work--also help students with reading and test preparation at William Lipscomb Elementary, Woodrow Wilson High School and J.L. Long Middle School.

At the house on Bryan Parkway, the tutoring involves after-school reading and helping kids with homework. Help with homework is a special boost to those who live in homes where English is not the first language and college is a distant dream, if it's thought of at all, the tutors say.

But if one of the ICE house's goals is to teach students to encounter the world and learn how communities are built and hang together, then Clyde McClendon has some advice for the program's current crop of tutors: Step outside the schools and start knocking on doors. Meet the neighbors. A talkative 75-year-old grandmother who lives one block over from the SMU house, McClendon sent four of her grandchildren through the ICE program in its early days, beginning in 1994. "My children, once they got out of school they were over there," McClendon says. "It was fantastic. You couldn't have asked for anything better. It wasn't just a school setting--do your program and then boom--tutors were involved not only as tutors, but as mentors. Their heart was in the program, and the parents were very involved, too."

SMU student Coco Martinez helps East Dallas kids decorate pumpkins at the ICE house.
Mark Graham
SMU student Coco Martinez helps East Dallas kids decorate pumpkins at the ICE house.

In a neighborhood that offers few community programs for kids, McClendon says the ICE house has provided a vital service. "Children need somewhere to focus their energy after school, away from school," she says. "They need a friend. Sometimes you can say more to a friend than to a mom or pop."

Back at the ICE house on a Friday "fun day" afternoon, the energy of a handful of kids is focused on painting pumpkins. Dabbling in watercolor paints poured on paper plates, the kids laugh, argue and chatter among themselves and with a half-dozen tutors. "Miss, we need white, white, white," says one boy who's busy mixing paint, trying unsuccessfully to blend primary colors to produce white.

As one boy spreads paint on his pumpkin, another tutor--a girl--arrives and sits next to him, but too close. He jokingly threatens to sue. What grounds, Martinez asks. "She's invading my privacy."

And possibly, somewhere in the future, another SMU law grad is born.

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