It’s common practice for school districts to name schools after presidents, but rarely does the honor go to writers. The honor is even less common for women of color. That’s all about to change for students in Los Angeles’ Echo Park neighborhood. The Los Angeles Times reports that this fall, elementary and middle school students in the historically working class Latino neighborhood will walk into the Sandra Cisneros Learning Academy.
The fiction writer and poet is perhaps most well known for her 1984 novel “The House on Mango Street.” That critically acclaimed collection of vignettes chronicles the journey of one young Latina, Esperanza Cordero, growing up in her working class Chicago neighborhood while dealing with tough issues like the concept of home, poverty, and sexual assault. It’s since become standard reading in many schools across the country.
Parents and administrators submitted Cisneros’ name for the new K-8 academy, which is slated to open in September. The LAUSD Board of Education approved the effort in June.
“Sandra Cisneros’ books, life, and career, first as a teacher and then as a literary artist, reflect a celebration of culture, history and excellence that our children can embrace, ” said Yolli Flores, an LAUSD board member, according to Patch.com.
The LA Times reports just how rare the selection is:
Other notables also have been given naming honors: There are schools named for boxer Oscar de la Hoya, Beethoven, Florence Nightingale, Jackie Robinson, John A. Sutter of the Gold Rrush era Sutter’s Mill, lawyer Johnnie Cochran, flier Orville Wright and activists César Chávez and Rosa Parks.
Although LAUSD officials were unable to provide a list of schools named after authors, out of more than 200 in the district, we found five. There is Washington Irving Middle School — Irving wrote “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle.” There are middle schools named for Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Robert Frost and transcendentalist essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson. An elementary school is named for children’s book author and illustrator Maurice “Where the Wild Things Are” Sendak. And some students attend Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School, named for the author of “Treasure Island” and, um, “Kidnapped.”
Cisneros has been widely recognized for both her work as a writer and an institution-builder. In 1995 she was awarded the prestigious MacArthur “Genius” fellowship, since since relocating to Texas she’s become involved with two foundations that help other creative writers develop their craft.