By Nateisha Choice, Destination: Graduation student

My senior year at West Mesquite High School was memorable for the usual reasons: football games, homecoming, prom and savoring every last minute with lifelong friends.

But thanks to the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas Destination: Graduation program, I have other special memories — like standing on the steps of the U.S. Capitol or introducing a Dallas Cowboy football player to students at my school.

Last summer, I was one of four local students selected to attend the first annual United Way TEAM NFL Youth Empowerment Summit in Washington D.C. We joined 29 NFL football players, including Dallas Cowboy starting cornerback Brandon Carr, in an effort to recruit volunteer readers, tutors and mentors, and spread awareness about the education crisis.

It was my first visit to Washington — and it was great. We held a rally on the National Mall, visited the U.S. Senate and got a first-hand look at our government institutions.

The trip inspired us to keep recruiting local volunteer readers, mentors and tutors when we got home. So we organized a contest to see which student could sign up the most people to receive information on United Way volunteer opportunities.

I met with 62 individuals and groups like the Rotary Club, showed power point slides and videos, and explained how people could help kids graduate and succeed.

At first, I was pretty nervous. But after a few meetings, I felt more comfortable and it even became fun.

In all, we signed up 399 people! Fortunately, I recruited the most, meaning my school would receive the contest prize: a visit by Brandon Carr.

So one day in May, I welcomed him at the stage of my school auditorium. He talked about what it’s like to play for the Cowboys and answered questions from students. He asked my classmates to give me a round of applause and invited me to say a few words.

This fall, I’m off to Wylie College where I’ll be a pre-law student who dreams of one day becoming a criminal defense attorney. But I will never forget my incredible senior year.

Thank you for the memories!

Nateisha Choice

Watch a video of Dallas Cowboy Brandon Carr’s visit to West Mesquite High School.