Pleasant Grove is my neighborhood

I’m a working mother of two boys—one who is of elementary age, the other already a grownup. I’ve raised my older son, and I’m raising my son in Southeast Dallas, in the community which is known as Pleasant Grove. This corner of Dallas—my corner of the world—feels like home. My son attends Henry B. Gonzalez Personalized Learning Academy, our neighborhood school. I’m also a Dallas ISD team member, who lives, shops, dines, and volunteers in my community because I’m intentional about supporting it.. 

As a district team member, I believe in public education. I made a decision early on, that my children would attend public schools, and that we would work as a family to find that sense of community in our schools. My father was a public school teacher and always taught me the value of public education. I didn’t grow up in Dallas, but I’ve lived here longer than I have anywhere else. I’m proud to live in Southeast Dallas, the home of many hard-working families whose children attend neighborhood public schools that are gems in our community. 

You may hear a lot about Pleasant Grove, not always wonderful things, but those things don’t define us. I can assure you that there are many people who put the “pleasant” in Pleasant Grove. It is my favorite part of the city. We have the Trinity Forest and a public horse park practically in my backyard. On Lake June, across from the Pleasant Grove Branch Library, we have the largest outdoor mural gallery in the country. There are many hidden treasures in our community that should be celebrated, and our schools are no exception.

There’s a sense of connection and synergy that I’ve seen in recent years. It’s an exciting time in our schools and in our community. There are leaders and volunteers, everyday people, who are working collaboratively to advocate for this area that has been historically economically disadvantaged. I see much of this good energy in the schools, as there are active Parent Teacher Associations and different educational and extracurricular enrichment options for students. With many new opportunities available in our neighborhood schools, I see more and more community members sending their children to schools in their own neighborhoods. 

From the moment I step out the door, I see a community that works together. I see parents walk their kids to school every morning, and they are greeted by volunteers, teachers or community members who work as crossing guards. There’s a sense of empathy, unity and a community that cares.

I feel good knowing that my child is attending a Dallas ISD school, where he feels nurtured, seen, heard, and where team members work with him and other students to help them be the best scholars they can be. As a parent, I genuinely feel that the district is playing an important role in fostering a happy, healthy, and future leader, whether his role in the world is big or small. They make me feel like my child is significant, like every child is significant. He loves art and choir and is an avid reader who loves numbers. He expresses his feelings and says things like, “Mom, that makes me happy,” or “Mom, that frustrates me,” and tells me why. His school is working with me to raise not only a smart, active child, but an emotionally intelligent child. 

A friend, who is a small business owner in the community and who grew up in Mexico, says the language of her heart is Spanish. She would tell me about her dreams of her son being the first in his family to go to college. He attended schools in our neighborhood, and when it was time to attend high school, he and his mom chose W.W. Samuell High School because of the Early College option. It was his mother’s biggest, boldest dream for her son to graduate with his associate degree and attend college. Her dream came true. Her son graduated with a two-year degree and is currently attending a local university. His mother recently told me that the years of sacrifice, the blood, sweat and tears were well worth the effort. 

This is what my community is made of—hard-working families that want the best for their children, and they’ve found it in our Dallas ISD schools, where there is something for every child. My community is changing the narrative of what Pleasant Grove used to be known as. These leaders—from administrators, teachers, cafeteria workers, custodians, to students—are making history and changing the future. 

Seeing things from the lens of a parent, at Gonzalez PL Academy, I found exactly what I always wanted for my child. I’m thankful that I can find it a couple of blocks from my home. I don’t just see this in my son’s school but in all of the schools in my community. It is fitting to see the names of history makers like Sylvia Mendez and Henry B. Gonzalez in our neighborhood schools where future history makers are growing up today. When my son says he is a senator (the school’s mascot), I think to myself that maybe someday he will be one in the U.S. Congress. Whether the kids that we are growing up in our neighborhood schools will become senators or not, they are the ones who will lead us into the future and they are learning how to lead in their neighborhoods.

Heroic actions by teacher save the life of a stranger

Teachers are often thought of as heroes in the classroom, but sometimes, they get to be heroes outside of school. That was the case for Israel Alfaro, an English I teacher at W.H. Adamson High School, who recently found himself in a dangerous situation, playing a crucial role in saving the life of a hot air balloon pilot.

Alfaro—a Skyline High School graduate and three-year veteran of  Dallas ISD—was driving in Crandall to his sister’s house when he noticed a hot air balloon in the sky. He said he called his wife, who is fascinated by hot air balloons, to tell her about it. While on the phone, he realized the balloon was about to crash. 

Alfaro drove toward the crash site, and by the time he got there, the hot air balloon was already on fire—it had landed on power lines.  Alfaro knew he had to act quickly so he jumped out of his vehicle and raced toward the balloon to check on whoever had been in the basket. 

Two men, who were in the car in front of him, also stopped and were already helping one pilot, whose injuries did not prevent walking, get out of the hot air balloon. Alfaro asked if there was someone else in there and jumped into action when they said yes. 

The first rescuers were wearing shorts, which prevented them from safely getting closer to the burning balloon. However, Alfaro was wearing pants and approached the basket to help the second man out of danger. 

The rescue proved to be challenging beyond the extreme and growing heat from the fire because of the man’s injuries. He seemed to have broken his legs and was unable to move on his own. 

Alfaro carefully and quickly pulled him out and moved him to a safe distance just in the nick of time. As he was asking about any other passengers—trying to communicate with the Polish man past the language barrier—one of the tanks on the hot air balloon exploded. 

Alfaro said it was a scary moment, but it didn’t sink in until later that had he not moved quickly, the outcome would have been very different for the pilot and for him.

“I wasn’t thinking about the possibility of a tank exploding, because I figured that was all already done,” Alfaro said. “If I would have taken seconds longer, that tank was going to explode on both the pilot and myself. At the moment you’re not thinking about any of that. But I just feel like God was there, and I was just the tool.”

Police arrived at the scene and pulled the injured pilot farther away from the burning balloon. Alfaro had been unable to move him again because the pain caused by the injuries was too extreme. The injured man was transported to the hospital by helicopter while the other pilot was taken by ambulance.

Alfaro reached out from the scene to let certain people know what had happened and that he was uninjured. Among the first messages he sent was to his principal, Stephanie Amaya, who quickly reached out to check in on him.

“That shows how much I trust my school principal and how comfortable I feel with my school and with my coworkers,” Alfaro said. “I didn’t know how I was gonna feel the next day, and I reached out because I knew that if I did need that support, I was going to have it at my school. I think that says a lot about my principal and the culture that she’s building here at Adamson.” 

Alfaro returned to school the next day and shared his experience with his students because the week before, the class had been discussing a poem titled “Shoe Store,” which talks about not taking moments for granted. 

“Part of my lesson with my students is that you have to appreciate today, because we don’t know about tomorrow,” Alfaro said. “That lesson could not have been proven to be more true.”


Israel Alfaro has the knack for being in the right place at the right time. After graduating from Skyline High School, he moved back to his native Puerto Rico to care for his ailing grandfather. He attended university there and also taught for 10 years. 

Back in Dallas for a visit in 2020, he heard about a Dallas ISD job fair at Skyline High School. He attended and met Principal Stephanie Amaya, who hired him  to teach at W.H. Adamson High School.