Chatter bounced off the colorful walls of the Sam Tasby Middle School cafeteria.
College banners of universities including Rice, Duke and Dartmouth hung from the ceiling.
Dallas ISD students Syahira Noor Bashar, 13, Hser Eh Doh, 13, Briana Barron, 15, and Liliana Chavez, 13, listened as mentors who were visiting with the after-school EAGLE Scholars program introduced themselves to the dozens of students around them.
Some mentors were college students. One a doctor. Another a leadership coach.
Maybe someday the four girls will be mentors themselves.
But even though they have a few years of school left, the girls may already be changing lives.
The four were part of a summer program this year with the Vickery Meadow Youth Development Foundation during which they helped design a coloring book called "Local" intended to be a guide for immigrants who are new to the city.
The book contains contact information and lists the services offered by some 30 Dallas-area nonprofits. Groups like the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services and Refugee Services of Texas are featured in the book. City services are also included. The book also features works from local poets.
Briana, whose parents are from Mexico, said that working on the book felt personal for her.
She said she was happy to be able to highlight the services of nonprofits that work with immigrants. She said it helped her feel more connected to these efforts to help immigrants.
"There's hope no matter where you go and there's always going to be a bright side to your future. And no matter how hard the journey might have been, there's always somebody there to help you," said Briana, a sophomore at Judge Barefoot Sanders Law Magnet at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center.
For about a month this summer, the students met for a class taught by artist Natalia Padilla. Each person in the 11-student class was assigned one or two nonprofits or services and designed artwork that represented the services.
The class was funded by a grant Padilla obtained from the Dallas' Office of Cultural Affairs.
"I remember how difficult it was migrating from one culture to another. I hope this solves a problem that I know from a personal point of view," Padilla said.
Hser, an eighth grader at Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women's Leadership School, said she wants to be an animator when she grows up. Being in the class, she said, was an opportunity to practice with graphic design.
The students used the design program Procreate on iPads to design the coloring book.
"It was a way to think outside the box," said Hser, whose parents are from Myanmar. She added that she was happy to not only help create the guide but also start developing a skill she can employ in her own art.
Janet Morrison-Lane, director of EAGLE Scholars, said this kind of experience will hopefully teach the students to use their voices. (EAGLE stands for "Excellent Achievement through Growth in Leadership and Education.")
"So many people miss out on what teenagers have to offer, so for them to be able to put out something into our city that was solely designed by them is amazing," Morrison-Lane said.
Padilla said the project is trying to raise $15,000 to print copies and translate the book into multiple languages, make it available for download and pay for the project website's hosting fees. The city grant covered 50% of the project.
Briana said she hopes they can reach this goal so that the book can reach as many immigrants as possible in Dallas, especially those who may be feeling like they need a hand.
"There's so much hate thrown to people through verbal abuse from people in high power. In a way, this book can hopefully bring a little bit of joy to people who are coming here. I hope it tells them that not everything is bad and that there is still joy here," Briana said.