FROM LAUSD Office of Communications:
For Immediate Release January 28, 2009
BOARD OF EDUCATION VOTES TO NAME NEW HIGH SCHOOL
AFTER MEXICAN AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS LEADERS
Los Angeles – The Los Angeles Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to name the first high school to be built in more than 85 years in East Los Angeles after two Mexican American civil rights leaders Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez.
The Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez Learning Center is scheduled to open in Fall 2009 and will be located in Boyle Heights.
“Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez paved the way for a more just educational system by combating segregation and discrimination,” said Board President Mónica García. “Their courage and struggle signifies the important role Latinos played in the fight for civil rights for all Americans. By naming this school after the Mendez family, we hope to
preserve this legacy for future generations.”
The story of the Mendezes courageous fight against prejudice and segregation in public schools on behalf of their children dates back to 1943. It was that year the children of Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez were denied entry into 17th Street School in Westminster,
California because they were Mexican American. The Mendez v. Westminster School Dist. is a landmark desegregation case that successfully ended segregation in California and is a precursor to later court cases including Brown v. the Board of Education.
Sandra Duran Mendez, daughter, and Johanna Mendez-Lizardo, granddaughter of the Mendezes, were both present at the LAUSD Board meeting where they shed tears of joy and thanked everyone for the honor.
“On behalf of the Mendez family, we thank Inner City Struggle, the Boyle Heights Learning Collaborative, LAUSD Board President Mónica García, and all those that supported the naming of this school, especially the community and students. We also would like to thank and acknowledge the other families that helped win this case: Ramirez, Estrada, Palomino and Guzman. It is important for families and students to know that we can change obstacles encountered along the way to success. ¡Muchisimas Gracias!”
Board members also received letters of support for naming the school after Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez from elected officials, teachers, community members and organizations in Boyle Heights. “The Mendez name serves as a reminder that we are all part of a legacy of struggle and that change is possible,” said Lester Garcia, Executive Director of the Boyle Heights Learning Collaborative.
“Opening the new high school in East Los Angeles is important to relieve overcrowding at Roosevelt High School and helps increase graduation rates,” said Klayber Sanchez, a 9th grade student at Roosevelt High School, and a member of United Students.
“Naming the new high school after people who have fought and struggled for their community is symbolic to students of this community.”
The new campus will feature two small learning communities that will house 1,025 seats and 38 classrooms, providing relief from overcrowding at Roosevelt High School.
Amenities will include: classrooms and science labs, a library, a multipurpose room, food service facilities, a parent center, underground parking, a competition gym and outdoor physical education facilities. In addition, campus structures are planned to
permit after-hours community access to the gym and athletic field.