Mapleton students ‘Walk for Ruby’
Photos by Zac Burtt/Siuslaw News
Upriver kids and staff hope this is beginning of annual tradition
Nov. 22, 2022 — Ruby Bridges recalled what she saw when she took that first walk into William Frantz Elementary School as the first black child to integrate Louisiana schools.
“There was a large crowd of people outside of the school,” said Bridges. “They were throwing things and shouting, and that sort of goes on in New Orleans at Mardi Gras.”
Mardi Gras it was not. This crowd had gathered to try and deter this brave first grader from attending school with their children.
Bridges was not deterred.
“She showed a lot of courage,” remembered former U.S. Deputy Marshal Charles Burks. “She never cried. She didn't whimper. She just marched along like a little soldier, and we're all very, very proud of her.”
Nov. 14, 1960, was the day Bridges bravely became the first black child took to attend school at Frantz Elementary in New Orleans. Sixty-two years later, on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022, students from Mapleton School District only had to brave the cold, early morning temperatures and a long walk when they came together to honor Bridges for their first-ever Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day.
Before coming to Mapleton to work full-time, teacher and coach Vanessa Clemons worked with the Lane African American Black Student Success (AABSS) Program. After her and her students met with Bridges via Zoom last year, Clemons was inspired to organize her first Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day last year as part of her work with AABSS.
This year, Clemons joined the Mapleton School District fulltime and brought the tradition to the upriver community.
“I pitched the idea to my Community Wellness students about bringing this event to Mapleton and they believed it was a great idea,” said Clemons. “I think it is so important for students in every community to learn about Ruby’s story as well as her mission to stop racism and bullying. She spoke of the Golden Rule being her guide throughout her life: treat others how you wish to be treated.”
Students, teachers and parent volunteers gathered at Mapleton Food Share early Monday morning. Many brought canned foods to donate to the food share. Coffee, tea, water and breakfast treats were provided. Students talked about Bridges and why the fight against racism continues to be important to this day.
The elementary kids left first, followed by the junior high and high school kids soon after. The group walked down Highway 126, turned left and crossed the Mapleton Bridge that transverses the Siuslaw. Then the students went left to head up to the school to start the day.
The tradition of honoring Bridges on the day of her walk, Nov. 14, started in 2018 when a group of fifth graders in the South San Francisco Unified School District were so inspired by Ruby's courage that they advocated to make Nov. 14 Ruby Bridges Day. With the help of the San Mateo County Office of Education, their dream became a reality.
In September 2021, the California State Senate passed a resolution proclaiming Nov. 14 as Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day.
If Clemons has her way, next year school districts all over Oregon will also join in the festivities. Siuslaw School Board Director Frank Armendariz alerted the rest of the Siuslaw board to the upriver schools’ plans at the last board meeting and it sounds like next year there will be Vikings joining Sailors for a new annual tradition.
For more information about Bridges, go to www.rubybridges.com/.