The Coveted One-Dollar Bill1/20/2023
A simple university hand sign has become a uniting force -- and a quick way to earn a buck in Wylie ISD.
It’s no secret that Superintendent Dr. David Vinson is a Texas Tech Red Raider. He exudes his love for the scarlet and black everywhere he goes. The pride he has for his collegiate alma mater prompted a way to bring college awareness to Wylie ISD students.
“Superintendents tend to have an extraordinary amount of influence,” Dr. Vinson said. “Any influence I may have, I want to associate with something positive, something good for our kids.”
Texas Tech University’s “Guns Up” hand signal connects Dr. Vinson with students inside (and outside) of the school district. When students see Dr. Vinson, they are quick to throw their “Guns Up.”
Dr. Vinson makes his rounds to the district’s 20 campuses every week, and the first student at each campus who gets their guns up gets a dollar.
“It expands their horizon and increases their allegiance to the university they support because parents will have a conversation with them about post-secondary education,” Dr. Vinson said.
The idea of giving a dollar for the first “Guns Up” came to Dr. Vinson when he was writing a check for his annual donation to the Texas Tech Alumni Association. He wanted to find a way to benefit the university and district students.
Born was an idea to physically hand out one-dollar bills to students in Wylie ISD.
“I’m always trying to find ways to establish relationships with kids, teachers and parents,” Dr. Vinson said.
After handing out a dollar for “Guns Up” for more than 10 years, the stories are endless…
Not long ago, a student was injured during a game in the gym and had to be taken by ambulance to the emergency room. Dr. Vinson met the family at the ER. As soon as the student saw him, despite the injury, gave Dr. Vinson a “Guns Up.”
The superintendent snapped a quick photo of the student.
“I didn’t want to post that photo, but man, this kid was tough, I had to share it,” Dr. Vinson said. “So I sent the picture to [Texas Tech Head Football Coach] Coach McGuire. He was moved and asked how our kiddo was doing.”
Another memorable exchange took place at Draper Intermediate.
“I gave a kid a dollar and she said, ‘I’ll never forget this, and I’ll go to Texas Tech.’ I thought that’s a pretty good deal,” Dr. Vinson said.
It can be mayhem when the superintendent walks into an area with a lot of students present.
“This one time at Cooper, kids ran out of the cafeteria screaming. One little girl was trying to run to me to get a dollar and got into trouble for running off,” Dr. Vinson said. “I did give her a dollar, but I want to support the teachers and administrators too. It can get complicated. I want it to be a positive experience.”
Dr. Vinson especially loves to see Wylie ISD students give him a “Guns Up” while wearing other schools’ attire!
The dollar exchange has opened doors for Wylie students. As the daughter of immigrants, 2013 Wylie High School graduate Sandra Addo said she had no idea what she wanted to do after graduating from high school. She testifies that Dr. Vinson’s love for the university helped her get to where she is today. After receiving her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas Tech, she is now the Program Manager for Diversity & Graduate Student Recruitment for the Davis College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
“Dr. Vinson was a huge part of my decision to come to Texas Tech,” Addo said. “Both of my parents immigrated from Africa before I was born, and both had been educated abroad. I was very open to hearing more about that university in West Texas. Dr. Vinson and his wife, Cristy, immediately embraced me and guided me through the process of enrolling at Texas Tech.”
WHS Class of 2013 graduate Sandra Addo learned about Texas Tech from Dr. Vinson and his wife, Cristy. After earning her master's, Addo still serves as a Red Raider at TTU’s Davis College.
The Vinsons set up visits to Texas Tech for Addo and her father.
“Over the years, I continue to receive periodic check-ups from the Vinsons,” Addo said. “There is never a person who hears my story who does not also hear about the Vinsons. I am forever grateful.”
Addo has come a long way since she was that first-generation college student from Wylie.
“I like to think that she would have never considered Texas Tech without that dollar,” Dr. Vinson said. “We helped change her world. She’s like our kid now.”
Even on the weekends and during holiday breaks, students who see him out and about can get that crisp one-dollar bill for showing him their “Guns Up.” Restaurants, movie theaters, sporting events, even in Florida on the way to Mexico, Dr. Vinson always makes sure to have dollar bills in his pocket wherever he goes.
“Every time we go into Texas Roadhouse, the same girl gives us a ‘Guns Up,’” Dr. Vinson said.
The dollar for “Guns Up” isn’t just to promote Texas Tech University. Dr. Vinson hopes that the simple act will spark conversations about students’ plans after graduation.
“Even if they aren’t going to Tech, I can ask them to tell me about their plans," Dr. Vinson said. "I like to hear about their finances and their goals so I can help counsel them on what’s right for their future, whether it’s the workforce, military, a junior college, small school, or large school.”
Addo says the value of talking to young students about college and getting them excited about their future cannot be understated.
“When I first saw the ‘Guns Up’ dollar campaign, I was immediately obsessed,” Addo said. “Dr. Vinson does a phenomenal job doing that, and I make sure to send my teacher friends all my extra Tech T-shirts!”
The superintendent’s dollar for “Guns Up” prompted staff rivals of the university to take action to promote their own schools. Hartman Elementary’s Diane Klingbeil, a third grade math teacher, is a die-hard Texas A&M Aggie.
“I give $2 to my first student to tell Dr. Vinson, ‘Gig ‘em Aggies!’” Klingbeil said.
Sometimes the superintendent will get a “Guns Down” from students who are fans of rival schools.
“I like to trash talk them too,” Dr. Vinson joked. “One time I told a kid who flashed ‘Guns Down’ wearing an A&M shirt, ‘Your team is so bad, you didn’t even make a bowl game.’ April [Cunningham, Wylie ISD Communications] scolded me and said, ‘He’s 9!’”
He continued, “It’s so fun. It creates a bond between me and the kiddos.”
There are rules to this quick-buck-earning game:
No dollars will be given out at solemn or intentionally quiet events.
You can’t get out of your car at an intersection or disrupt traffic in any way.
You have to be the first of the day to show “Guns Up” to get the dollar.
And one more especially important rule from Dr. Vinson:
“You have to know that ‘Guns Up’ is for Texas Tech. If you say ‘Go Pokes’ or some other school, you won’t get a dollar -- or get one ever again!”