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Youth Believing in Change Executive Director Vince Gaddis (left) was just starting his afterschool ministry when seven-year old Linwood Fields first attended the program. Linwood credits YBC with teaching him how to be a better student and better person, helping him to be accepted into a magnet high school and then graduating from SMU before joining he Air Force to serve his country.

Seven Year Old Student Grows Up Through YBC To Excel at Townview Magnet, SMU and Air Force

Linwood Benjamin James Fields is named after his father Linwood, and he admits he ended up with such a long name because his parents liked “Benjamin James” but also wanted to honor his father. “So, my name is sort of a collaboration—a combination if you will—of what my parents wanted for me.”

Born at St. Paul Hospital, he grew up in Oak Cliff, and at the age of seven met Vince Gaddis at Concord Missionary Baptist Church, where Vince was a minister.

Vince was working with kids in an afterschool program he developed called “Youth Believing in Change,” and as he was setting the foundation for it, Linwood became involved. YBC was a place to go after school to get homework done, eat a hot meal and be encouraged by caring adults. Linwood attended Martin Weiss Elementary in south Dallas, and spent his summers at the YBC summer camp in Dallas, learning how to become a leader, and how to lean on God.

“I knew who Jesus was but never actually had a relationship with him,” Linwood says. That changed in the summer of 2001 when Vince arranged for him to attend “Kids Across America Kamp” in Missouri. “It changed my life. On the third day at camp I made a decision for Christ.  I went two more summers after that, sort of as a student leader of other kids from YBC.” The group attending the camp ballooned up to over 30 kids and Linwood realizes now, looking back, “It was hard on Vince—he had two young children at home, and his wife, and he hated to leave them.”

As Linwood became a leader in YBC he also became a leader at his elementary school, and then applied and got into the Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Magnet School of Government, Law, & Law Enforcement in downtown Dallas.

He worked on his first political campaign while a sophomore at Townview as part of a grass roots effort in 2004, and is pleased to note his official won and has been re-elected and is still in office today.

In his junior year, he enjoyed a semester as a Congressional Intern. “I lived in the attic of the building of the Library of Congress with a roommate from Wisconsin,” Linwood says, proud to be one of 60 pages at the time. The Senate still has the page program, but Congress doesn’t. “Most of us were 16 or 17 years old,” he remembers.  “We had supervision, but also freedom to go explore D.C. It was a great experience to actually to see how the government works.” His day began at 4:30 a.m. with AP-level classes and then, if congress was in session, he’d head there two hours later, at 6:30 a.m.

After four years, with excellent grades, he graduated from Townview and applied to SMU and was accepted. Grants and loans helped get him through, and after four years he graduated with a Political Science degree.

Responding to his continued desire for service and commitment he enlisted in the Air Force. “I wanted to serve, and find my footing in the world,” he says. He began his basic training in March of 2012, and now, five years later, has just signed up for another four. He is an Air Force Medic, which means he can put in IVs, give shots, and assist doctors and nurses with routine exams and medical procedures. “I know this medical background will help me throughout my life,” he says.

Though Linwood was planning to return to serve at YBC next year, he recently was offered opportunity to sign up for four more years and become a chaplain. As a result he will be closer to home as he will leave LA, where he’s been stationed the last four years, and will now be at Edwards Air Force base in San Antonio, working at the military hospital, “a new change of pace and environment for me.” He is also beginning the process to be commissioned as a chaplain. He’s taking on-line courses from Dallas Theological Seminary, the same school that his mentor, Vince Gaddis, attended.

He plans to do his 20 years in the Military, going wherever the Air Force takes him, and then start his career as a preacher—or possibly working in an organization like Youth Believing in Change. “I know a lot from the student perspective,” he says, “It would be fun to be on the other side.”

One of his most challenging moments in life occurred while a student in YBC. Right before his first year at SMU, Vince convinced him to attend a wilderness camp in the summer, and he was so scared that Vince was worried about him finishing the week. His tent-mate didn’t—after one day, the kid called his parents to pick him up.  “I seriously worried about him that week,” Vince says, laughing about it now. “There was a 100 foot drop at that camp, and I thought oh my—what if Linwood falls? Or worse, jumps?” Vince prayed hard for his young protégé’ and Linwood prayed for strength to overcome his fears and make it through the week. He did.

And now he’s leaping into five more years of service to the nation, as he continues his time in the Air Force.

His mother still lives in Oak Cliff, and with three brothers and a sister in town, Linwood figures he’ll be back in the Dallas area one day.

He credits his success in school—elementary, high school and college—with the lessons he learned at Youth Believing in Change. “Do your homework. Study Hard, work hard. And pray. Lean on God.”

He already sounds like the chaplain he’s studying to become.

 

YBC has a summer camp program in Lake Highlands that begins when school ends. Parents of children in DISD and RISD served by YBC can enroll their children now. Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson will be the keynote speaker at “An Evening of Change,” on Thursday, May 4, 2017, raising funds for the Youth Believing in Change (YBC) after school and summer camp program. The annual dinner will be held at Highland Park Presbyterian Church, where Faith will be speaking about her own faith growing up.

For more information about the dinner or for tickets, contact YBC at 214-692-9242. Tables of eight are available for $500 and individual tickets or sponsorships are also available.

Afterschool tutors and volunteers are always welcome. Scout troops are encouraged to consider YBC when Eagles Scout projects are being discussed. For more information see the Ybc Dallas Facebook page, or the website: www.ybcdallas.org 

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