Rodney White is ready to teach Fort Worth's boys how to become successful young men.
When you talk about the new Paul Laurence Dunbar Young Men's Leadership Academy, he has determination in his voice.
He wants his young men to represent the city with pride. Coats and ties, yes. Blue hair and pierced ears, no.
He knows it's risky to try something new, such as having an all-boys school. But White's mantra is to never give up.
"When I look at the young men, I see myself in them," White said. "Someone saw the potential in me. I wasn't the top student, but someone taught me how to have confidence. This is not just a job, but it's a passion."
White, 36, came from a family of educators with his mom and grandfather both being teachers and later administrators. He grew up in Abilene where he ran track in high school. He earned his bachelor's from Abilene Christian University and his master's from the University of Texas at Arlington.
White is married and has two daughters, ages 13 and 9. He said he had long told his wife he always wanted to have a son too. "Now I will have a school full of them," he laughs. "I guess you better watch what you ask for."
White came to the Fort Worth school district in 2000 and taught science at Dunbar Middle School. He most recently was principal of Glencrest 6th Grade.
The enrollment process has been extended after officials only received about 40 applications for sixth grade and 17 for seventh grade. Each grade can accommodate 75. District officials said a contributing factor to the lack of interest show so far was because White was not named principal until after the original application deadline, which meant the school did not have an advocate pushing students to enroll and publicizing the school.
While all-girls schools are becoming more prevalent in Texas, all-boys schools are more rare. One key reason for that is funding.
Lee Posey, who founded Palm Harbor Homes, had learned of a successful all-girls school in Harlem and wanted to bring that model to Texas. He crated the Foundation for the Education of Young Women that has helped fund the creation of all-girls schools in Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Lubbock, Houston and Fort Worth.
So far, the YMLA has received a $50,000 donation from Chase Bank to help.