In a high school cafeteria filled with noisy, hungry teenagers is a corner where calm prevails.
Jordan White, 16, and Donald Harris, 66, sit across a table from one another, their heads hovering over a chessboard.
“I’m not all that good,” Donald Harris says. “But I know the moves.”
Harris is teaching Jordan how to play. They met when Jordan began riding the bus Harris drives for Duncanville ISD. In his five years at the wheel, Harris’ mission has become much more than offering a ride. He makes a conscious effort to connect with the kids, talk about their goals and encourage them to further their education.
“I make up nicknames for them so I can remember,” Harris says with a chuckle.
Though their ages span half a century, Harris says he clicked with Jordan soon after they met. Jordan looked him in the eye when he spoke and seemed to be a deep thinker. A few weeks into the school year, Harris purchased the wooden chessboard for him.
“He looked like somebody who needed to learn chess,” Harris says.
Harris, figured someone needed to teach Jordan how to play, so he showed up during the lunch hour at Duncanville High School to begin the lessons.
“He said I looked smart,” Jordan says with a sly smile. “I agree.” And then he laughs.
Turns out Harris is a pretty good judge of character. Jordan is taking advanced math and physics and gets good grades. He’s interested in becoming an entrepreneur, maybe heading his own sportswear company.
On this day, after just a few lessons, Jordan quickly captures some of Harris’s chess pieces.
“I’m all right,” Jordan says.
“He’s amazing,” Harris counters. “I think he practiced at home because he came back with some new moves.”
Harris, who lives down the street from the high school, would ordinarily go home after his morning shift, fix a meal and then take a nap before the afternoon bus route. Now, he’s intent on getting to know Jordan and anyone else who wants to learn to play chess.
“I think it can grow,” Harris says.
Although he’s approaching 70, Harris isn’t considering retirement.
“What’s that?,” he says. “I’m never gonna stop moving.”
Harris is making it his mission, on his school bus and across a chessboard, to encourage young people to pursue their passions.