Virginia teenagers pushed to rename their highschool for John Lewis


They felt that the college’s identify didn’t appropriately replicate its mission, nor the range of its present pupil physique. And after a student-led drive for change, the Fairfax County College Board voted on Thursday to rename the college after the civil rights icon.

Luna Alazar, a senior on the time, spoke up on the first college board assembly on the topic this fall. She is now 18 years outdated.

“I would love for those who think about being a Lee Excessive College pupil. We’re a tremendously various neighborhood with robust ambitions and memorable unity. We’re charismatic and stuffed with pleasure. We have now completely different concepts and imaginations that make us actually distinctive. Nevertheless, we’re named after somebody who would not characterize us in any respect,” she advised the Fairfax County College Board in October 2019.

The college’s pupil physique is essentially made up of minorities — 45.46% Hispanic or Latino, 23.94% Asian, 14.93% White and 12.97% Black, in response to the county’s web site.

“It is form of like a slap within the face to say that we go to Robert E. Lee Excessive College, the Accomplice common, the person who was combating in opposition to the Union in favor of slavery,” Edward Cariño, a 15-year-old Filipino immigrant and rising highschool junior, stated.

Alazar stated that whereas some alumni current on the board assembly supported the necessity for a reputation change — some saying they have been embarrassed to indicate their kids a diploma with the identify Robert E. Lee — others have been adamant that altering the identify would erase years of Virginian historical past and Lee’s heritage.

She stated she felt hopeless after that winter assembly. Many older neighborhood members who opposed the identify change advised her she was only a pupil, with out expertise or data.

“Why ought to we hearken to you?” they requested.

The hassle to rename the college, nonetheless, was reignited in current months, impressed by the present nationwide looking on racial justice.

In June, throughout a digital assembly of the college board, many college students, together with Alazar and juniors Amanda Hurst and Nour Kassem, confused that they’re the present face of the college and that they need to cope with the ramifications of the college’s identify daily.

“It feels very ungenuine for all of us to say, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ if our faculty’s identify is Robert E. Lee and we’ve not tried to alter the identify,” Hurst, 16, stated in an interview, talking to the rationale many college students spoke up en mass this summer time.

Following community-wide pleas for change, the college board introduced it might maintain a one-month interval of public touch upon potential new names. Identify recommendations included Mildred Loving and Cesar Chavez.

On the finish of that interval, the college board voted unanimously to rename the college after Lewis.

‘Good Hassle’ in motion

Lewis, a champion for civil rights, famously impressed younger folks to face up for what they imagine in.

When requested about Lewis’s legacy and the way they’ll honor his dedication to civil rights, Fairfax County college students shared that, partly, they’ve already embodied ‘good bother’ by combating to rename their college.

With plans to create a social justice committee, and discussions round revising the college’s curriculum to be extra consultant of their range, these college students will proceed to talk up for change of their neighborhood.

Edward Cariño, 15

“We’re utilizing our voices to ruffle folks’s feathers in an effort to make some good change, as a result of in an effort to make change, I imply, some persons are going to be against it clearly… (we’re) utilizing our voices to advocate for what’s proper.”

Luna Alazar, 18

“I nonetheless stood up and I nonetheless fought, regardless that many individuals have been in opposition to me or did not care about what I needed to say. And I feel that is ‘good bother’ since you’re combating for a trigger which means extra to you than it does to many… it helps many which were so misplaced. So many college students at my college who really feel like they are not supported, felt supported after this identify change. They felt that they have been heard as a result of earlier than they did not really feel like that they had a voice, however now they know they do.”

Farva Khan, 16

Farva Khan

“We’re planning on beginning a brand new committee for our class at John Lewis referred to as the social justice committee to spotlight college students’ civic engagement and actions and alternatives as a result of John Lewis was an advocate for younger voices, and we imagine it is the easiest way to honor him. And we would like college students, like he acknowledged, to get into ‘good bother’ by utilizing their voices to advocate for change.”

Rawan Hashim, 15

Rawan Hashim

“We wish to have a ‘good bother,’ committee, we additionally wish to meet and speak and get the phrase out to different college students about any social injustices. We have now lots. From all the things occurring proper now, we did discover that our neighborhood wants extra consciousness. A giant concern proper now could be racial injustice. The college’s named after John Lewis. It is crucial for them to know what he did when it comes to combating in opposition to racism.”

Amanda Hurst, 16

Amanda Hurst

“We predict (Fairfax County Public College’s) curriculum may be very White-washed and really Eurocentric… It is alleged to be world historical past, but we do not study ladies, we do not study folks of shade, and we’re hoping that we will push for (Fairfax County Public Faculties) to essentially change their curriculum and actually take away the White-lensed glasses which might be at present on it.”

Nour Kassem, 16

Nour Kassem

“In my historical past class, authorities class truly, we discovered about Martin Luther King’s, ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail.’ And I do know he talked briefly about, if you realize one thing is fallacious, take a look at the restrict, and if a legislation is fallacious, you realize, break it… so you possibly can present how fallacious it’s. I really feel like that form of represents ‘good bother’ in a manner, the place you are inflicting bother to indicate gentle on one thing… I feel it is just like the protests, you realize, they wished to indicate how unjust all the things was, and I assume you might say they acquired into good bother, and issues are altering now.”

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