2023 Rising Stars Luncheon had a lot going for it. Not only did it benefit After-School All-Stars North Texas (ASAS), it was honoring longtime supporter Gina Betts as well as having North Texas true-[Mavs] blue German transplant Dirk Nowitzki on stage for a chat with Voice of the Dallas Mavs Mark Followill.
While past ASAS events had been held at Brook Hollow and Northwood, this one on Wednesday, May 10, was at The Hall on Dragon.
The VIP reception was a bit slow getting underway due to the jammed-up valet, and that was even before the rain started coming down in buckets.
It wasn’t hard to spot Dirk as he entered the room. After all at 7’ tall he literally towers over others wherever he goes. And that also provides a challenge for meet-and-greet photos. Trying to include guests with Dirk is a literal stretch. But no one cared because he was just so darn nice and accommodating.
As the VIP ended and Dirk exited, guests headed to the dining room for the luncheon and the program.
Upon arriving at their tables, guests discovered a bowl of mixed green salad, rolls and water. That would be all for quite a while.
In accepting the Champion Award from Inaugural After-School All-Stars Champion Awardee Ben Lange, Gina admitted that her household sometimes appeared to look like an “I Love Lucy” episode.
To help guests better understand the ASAS mission of “providing comprehensive, cost-free after-school programs that keep children safe and help them succeed in school and life,” ASAS Program Manager Sabrina Garcia interviewed ASAS student Penelope Salazar and ASAS staffer Ilse Gonzalez onstage.
In addition to the personal stories, guests were to learn that 101,000 students in Dallas are unable to be part of ASAS due to costs and transportation. Of that number, 32,000 are left unsupervised at home from 3 to 6 p.m.
Thanks to ASAS, 99% of participants were promoted to the next grade level on time and of the participants the following results were reported:
- 86% have an aptitude to develop and pursue long-term life goals
- 84% have confidence in their ability to understand and navigate various career pathways and
- 46% improved in their social-emotional confidence.
Founded in 2012, ASAS currently serves 700 students in six schools (Hector P. Garcia Middle School, Life School Oak Cliff Charter Secondary, Elsie Robertson Middle School, E.D. Walker Middle School, Thomas C. Marsh Preparatory Academy and Morningside Middle School), with 89% from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Of that number 65% are Latino, 30% are Black/African American and 5% are “other.”
Just as Dirk and Mark started their talk, a line of servers arrived on the scene to serve the entrée (pecan chicken and eggplant steaks for vegans with sides of vegetable medley and homemade chicken strips with fries for kids).
One guest noted that due to the timing, Dirk had evidently missed the main meal and dessert of chocolate mousse topped with Oreo cookies crumbs or New York cheesecake.
Not to worry. Dirk showed no signs of missing the meal.
And the conversation was a Dallas Mavs dream with 45-year-old Dirk recalling his early days joining the team in 1998 and admitting the honor of being part of his home country Germany’s basketball team in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, as well as being its flagbearer for the opening day parade.
On the home front, he talked about how his and his wife Jessica Nowitzki’s kids are into all types of sports.
At one point he recalled a lunch where Jessica reminded him that he was no longer in a locker room.
As always, the big German was open and refreshingly honest with his comments about the current state of affairs of the Mavs and his appreciation for the support by Dallas Mavs fans and staff.
He applauded the wealth of talent that had come from Europe.
But all too soon his time was up as his handler whisked him away to a waiting car.
Alas, the guests weren’t as fortunate. They texted for their cars, as instructed, only to arrive at a curbside gathering around a small blue tent as valets tried to make sense of the nest of keys in the stand. Even when the cars eventually arrived, women were seen doffing their shoes to cross the ponds of rain that had appeared in the driveway. One very unhappy camper who had a “very important meeting” claimed he should have just Ubered and come back for his wheels.
It was indeed a great chat with Dirk and a well-earned honor for Gina, despite The Hall on Dragon’s shortcomings.