Alexandria’s Elementary School Announces Civil Rights’ Driven Mascot at Dedication Ceremony

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Students sang, danced and showed off balancing skills to a large crowd that included Ferdinand T. Day’s daughter Gwen Day-Fuller. Photo by Jacinta Greene.

Large Community Turnout for Ferdinand T. Day Dedication Ceremony

Ferdinand T. Day’s family and members of the community joined students and parents from the new Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School on the West End on Thursday to officially dedicate the building.

The school’s 450 students sang, danced and showed off balancing skills to a large crowd that included Ferdinand T. Day’s daughter Gwen Day-Fuller and family members, City Council members, Congressman Don Beyer, and Deborah S. Delisle, Executive Director and CEO of ASCD and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education under President Barack Obama. The crowd stood to hear the Black National Anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” sung by the T.C. Williams High School Choir in honor of the civil rights movement that drove change in Alexandria in the 1950s and 60s.

School Mascot Chosen

In an envelope marked “Top Secret” was the school’s mascot, and amid a rolling and soon thunderous applause, “Blaze the Phoenix,” was revealed, a choice thoughtfully inspired by the school’s trailblazing namesake, Ferdinand T. Day.

The school is named after Ferdinand T. Day, a civil rights icon and education pioneer, who was appointed to the Alexandria City School Board just ten years after the Brown versus Board of Education decision. He became the first African American to be elected chair of a public school board in the Commonwealth of Virginia and was highly active in working towards the desegregation of Alexandria.

Ferdinand T. Day Elementary released top secret name of the school mascot, “Blaze the Phoenix” at the dedication ceremony on October 18. 2018, as drawn by ACPS teacher Ms. Robash. Courtesy photo.

Ferdinand T. Day’s Daughter Speaks

“It is a distinct honor for him, his family and all those he touched to see his name chosen to be the name on this school. It tells a story that leaders come from all walks of life and that leadership is not limited by class, race, gender or color. It proves that intangible qualities such as integrity, compassion and ingenuity make the man and that all things coupled with planning can make all things possible,” said Gwen Day-Fuller.

She went on to say that her father had been a dreamer and a thinker, who questioned the world around him from an early age, loved reading and accumulating knowledge and being around young people.

“He was determined to share his many gifts with us. He loved Alexandria and was not shy in saying so. He spent his life working to make it the best city he could,” Mrs. Day-Fuller added.

“Today, we dedicated this school to a man who continues to serve as an inspiration for our students, our leaders and our community. Mr. Day worked tirelessly to affect positive change at the community and state levels and we are all beneficiaries of his work. I am a part of his legacy and would not be here if it were not for people like him,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr.

Born in 1918 in Alexandria, Ferdinand T. Day went to Parker-Gray School through eighth grade before continuing his secondary education in D.C. Public Schools because Alexandria offered no formal high school education for African Americans. Courtesy photo

Students Can Read and Exercise Simultaneously

Following the dedication, guests toured the new building to see students in their new environment. They viewed stationary bikes where students can cycle while reading, and visited the large light-filled media center, rooftop playground, and the hands-on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) lab. They also talked to students at work in cozy classrooms with a variety of seating, SMART Boards, and large windows with learning-focused decoration. As a STEM school, Ferdinand T. Day will offer an integrated curriculum emphasizing literacy, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

And finally, they announced the new school mascot: Blaze the Phoenix, an ever-present reminder of the civil rights’ trailblazing namesake for whom the school is named.