San Juan Unified students honor inclusivity with Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day
On Nov. 14, 1960, Ruby Bridges broke barriers in the Civil Rights Movement when she became the first Black student to integrate an all-white elementary school in the south. 63 years later, students at Pasadena Avenue Elementary School and Charles Peck Elementary School honored her legacy by participating in the annual Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day.
Each school marched together in a sea of purple, as participants were encouraged to wear this color to match the flags, banners and backpacks given to them by the Ruby Bridges Foundation. Both schools also found their own unique way to celebrate. At Peck, families dropped off their students at nearby Living Hope Church and staff chaperoned them the rest of the way to campus to simulate the walk taken by Ruby Bridges each day. Meanwhile, Pasadena students and staff marched in laps around campus while positive music played.
The event, which was the first of its kind at Pasadena, was a hit with students and staff.
“It was nice to see so many of them holding hands with each other and talking to each other and getting to be out all as a school,” said Fenecia Martinez, a first-grade teacher at Pasadena who brought this event to the attention of the school after reading about it over the summer.
Martinez felt that celebrating the Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day event would help to build community at the school while educating students on the importance of equity and inclusion.
“We talk about how in our class now, everybody is different and we celebrate the differences in our classroom,” she said. “We can do that because of people like Ruby Bridges.”
Students understand that inclusion is an important part of a school’s culture. When thinking about what it means to feel included, Lovell Powell, a first-grade student at Pasadena, said “I feel happy when I feel included, because I get to do stuff that’s fun.” He added that it is important to make sure others feel like they belong “because other people might feel sad when other people aren’t included.”
Martinez has hopes that this event will continue at Pasadena for years to come.
“This really felt like a way to bond together. And I hope that in the future, each year, it gets a little bit bigger and we get to spend more time talking about not just Ruby Bridges, but other activists and people who have made change for education and other people in the world,” she said.