A Northern California school board voted Wednesday to rename an elementary school after former first lady Michelle Obama.
West Contra Costa Unified School District’s Board of Education will be renaming Wilson Elementary School, which had originally been named after former President Woodrow Wilson, to Michelle Obama Elementary School because it is supposedly more relatable for today’s students.
Wilson Elementary Parent Teacher Association president Maisha Cole said the students are now more inspired by the former first lady than by the former president.
“They all recognize her, they know her initiatives, healthy eating, you can do it, she’s so encouraging and we wanted somebody to embody that,” Cole told WTTV.
Of course, most of the school’s current students either hadn’t been born or were infants when the Obamas first entered the White House.
A child who is in kindergarten today may have only been 2 years old when former President Barack Obama’s term ended.
The East Bay Times reported that the school is home to roughly 430 students from kindergarten through sixth grade.
Classes are currently being held in a temporary location due to the construction of a brand new “state-of-the-art 21st century” school building at its permanent location, the outlet said.
The students are expected to be able to attend the new school this fall.
School board president Stephanie Hernandez-Jarvis expressed her excitement over the school’s new building and its name, particularly highlighting the former first lady’s “values.”
“Naming this school after Michelle Obama is a sign of the school’s rebirth,” Hernandez-Jarvis said in a statement. “We can see the new physical structure being built, but this name change sets high expectations for the students and staff as they enter a new era for this school and this school community.
“The parents and students advocated to rename their school after Michelle Obama because they believe the values our former first lady embodies and the educational, child-centered causes she champions, are representative of what we all aspire to nurture in our school communities.
“She is a role model for our children and we strive to serve our students with the same kind of love, advocacy, and courage that she served our country.”
Dawit Vazquez-Suomala, a student representative on the board, agreed.
“To go to a school named Michelle Obama, I think that’s really special and more schools should do that,” Vazquez-Suomala told WTTV.
The name change came about after the PTA submitted a letter requesting it
“Woodrow Wilson was a great name back then, but now we want to think bigger,” Cole told KTTV.
“With a new school and new learning environment, we want our children to think beyond Richmond, to think beyond California, and remind them that they can make a difference locally and globally,” Cole added in a statement.
Principal Claudia Velez expressed her agreement with the name change.
“We have the opportunity to have a beautiful new school named after a person who really represents our diversity and values,” Velez said. “Our school is diverse, modern and innovative, and the things that the kids will be doing will prepare them for a very strong and successful future in whatever career they choose.”
Changing the name of the West Contra school to Michelle Obama Elementary will make it the second school in the state to be named after the former first lady, and the first in northern California, the school board said.
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