‘Be the change,’ Northwood teacher says

Students participate in Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day.

With a vital Northwood Elementary School message of “Belonging” already nestled in their minds, fourth- and fifth-grade students brought Ruby Bridges’ critical journey toward peace, equity and harmony along with them on a recent walk near their school on Mercer Island.

Led by fourth-grade teacher and organizer Lindsay Oliveira, the school safety patrollers and fellow students were joined by school staff and family members on Northwood’s inaugural Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day on Nov. 14.

The group strolled to Island Crest Way along Southeast 40th Street while donning purple clothes and carrying a banner and flags to amplify Bridges’ message that “racism has no place in the hearts and minds of our children,” reads her website.

In 1960 at the age of 6, Bridges integrated William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans and became a national icon for the civil rights movement. According to the National Women’s History Museum site, Bridges became the first African American student to integrate an elementary school in the South.

“It was really cool to see them rallying around this and chanting peaceful messages. I think at the end, they were chanting ‘Ruby Bridges,’” Oliveira, the school’s safe patrol officer, said of the AAA-sponsored event. “And the fact that Ruby Bridges is still alive is such a great message. She’s devoted her life to really carrying this message on.”

Oliveira added that commuters sent smiles and honks the kids’ way and were glad that approximately 50 students were hitting the pavement and positively supporting a cause.

Student walkers gave invaluable insight on Bridges’ integration on Oliveira’s Curipod interactive lesson tool:

Reagan Hansen said, “The Ruby Bridges walk was amazing and super fun and I love knowing that she stood up for herself and other African American kids or adults.”

“It’s amazing to be able to get to help others who don’t know about Ruby Bridges to now know what she did — and inspire others, so one day other Black and white children can make a difference like Ruby Bridges,” added Antoniya, who chose to withhold her last name.

Natalie Uchida feels that Bridges is a responsible and courageous person: “She never gives up even when she is alone in school and continues to go to school. She also stands up for what she believes in.”

Another student, John Ben-Dor, took his walk participation a step further by visiting William Frantz Elementary School while on a recent family trip. Oliveira said it was cool to see how Ben-Dor and others were connected with and impacted by the walk.

Ben-Dor wrote that he wanted to learn more about Bridges’ integration by checking out the famous school.

“I felt like I was in one of the most important places in the world because Ruby Bridges was Black and everyone didn’t want her to go there just because she was Black,” he noted.

Oliveira said that she wants kids to know that absorbing an education isn’t only academic-related and that lessons can over-arch beyond the classroom and into their lives as well. Most of her students have delved into Bridges’ story before with other teachers as the school focuses on equality and standing up for what one believes in.

“Something I stay to my students is, ‘Be the change,’” Oliveira said. “Like Ruby Bridges, they should be change makers when they feel things need to be improved or drastically changed. Instead of being passive, speak up and act in an assertive way.”

For more information, visit: https://rubybridges.foundation

Northwood Elementary School student John Ben-Dor recently visited William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans where Ruby Bridges integrated as a 6-year-old in 1960. Courtesy photo

Northwood Elementary School student John Ben-Dor recently visited William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans where Ruby Bridges integrated as a 6-year-old in 1960. Courtesy photo