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Jackson Elementary School gets new name after students push for change

Students petitioned the school board for the school's namesake to be changed from Andrew Jackson to Mary Jackson, the first Black female engineer at NASA.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Tune in Monday to Local 5 News at 10 to watch the full story.

The start of the summer is an exciting time for any kid. But for some third and fourth graders at Jackson Elementary School, the end of the school year couldn't have gone more perfectly.

Jackson Elementary is actually named Andrew Jackson Elementary - or, at least, it was.

Everything changed when a group of students did some research on President Andrew Jackson as part of their leadership team at school. 

The information they found didn't sit right with them. For example, they learned that Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act into law. In addition, they found out the former president had owned nearly 200 enslaved people. 

Rather than keep silent about what they found, the students decided to speak up. 

On April 19, the students went to the Des Moines School Board meeting to petition for a name change. 

"We're asking the board to rename Andrew Jackson Elementary to Mary Jackson Elementary as it states in our own vision, 'Des Moines Public Schools is dedicated to making our students, staff, volunteers and parents feel welcomed,'" one student told the board. 

Using facts from their research, the students convinced leaders to officially rename the school after Mary Jackson, NASA's first Black female engineer.

"Mary Jackson's perseverance, collaboration and fight for equality align with the principles of Jackson Elementary," said student Penelope Carter at the meeting.

Andrew Jackson's name was recently pulled off the building, leaving a blank space for now.

Putting Mary Jackson's name there is just the first step in writing a new chapter for their school.

"For them to stand up for things they believe in, I'm like, 'My job as a teacher has been done,'" said teacher Bettina Bradley. "They have really become leaders." 

    

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