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Principal Rachel Dischner Introduces Dr. Deborah Hall-Greene Thomas to Students at Ferdinand T. Day School

Part Two

All images courtesy Ferdinand T Day School

Alexandria, VA— When Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School Principal Rachel Dischner recently read the children’s book, “They Believed They Could Fly!…And They Did,” she knew it needed to be shared with her students. Principal Dischner’s neighbor loaned her the book after hearing her proudly speak of her school’s mission and its amazing community.

Principal Dischner was virtually introduced to the book’s author, Dr. Deborah Hall-Thomas Greene (affectionately referred to as Dr. D) and contacted her to learn more.  Dr. D shared with her how she came to write the book and the story behind it. 

rights conveyed to ACPS for Day school

They Believed They Could Fly!…And They Could! The Tuskegee Airmen is a story Dr. D wrote about the Tuskegee Airmen and their quest to be included in the history books. Her story is told through the eyes of her then six year old Derrick, who is now in his twenties. He would often be with her when she was on the road with The Tuskegee Airmen as their National Protocol Officer for many years. Her goal in writing the book was not only to tell the story in a way young students would understand, but to encourage and inspire them to never give up. 

Dr. D and son Derrick spoke to the students at an event set up by Principal Dischner on Tuesday November 15th where they both shared stories and lessons. They answered many questions and showed them special memorabilia. This was followed up by an event on Thursday night, November 17th where children were encouraged to bring their parents to meet Dr. D and hear the same story and lessons shared within them.

Principal Dischner explains, “When I first met Dr. D, I quickly learned that she had a personal connection with Ferdinand Day and the message of her book ‘failure is not an option’ aligned so perfectly with our core values. It was a natural fit to connect with an author focused on the idea of never giving up, with civil rights, and who is sharing the stories of the Tuskegee Airmen and their fight to be written into the history books.”

As she tells it, Dr. D’s father-in-law, Nelson E. Greene, and Ferdinand T. Day were great friends for over 60 years. Both men were active community leaders and would often bring her in as a community volunteer.

Dr. D tells a story of fond memories attending Sunday brunch and running into Ferdinand T. Day, whom she fondly refers to as Uncle Ferdinand. He was with his daughter, and Dr. D’s sorority sister, Gwen Day Fuller. After she was invited to the school to speak with students, Dr. D spoke to Gwen Fuller and detailed,  “She was delighted, and encouraged me to please accept the invitation. She then shared with me that her dad always followed me and my brother’s accomplishments and whenever he ran into us, it brought a huge smile to his face.”

Members of Ferdinand T. Day’s family joined civic leaders as they cut the ceremonial ribbon on Alexandria’s first new school to open since 2000.
Photo courtesy of ACPS

Some might say it’s fate, the alignment of the stars, everything happens for a reason, or just plain coincidence that brought Dr. D’s story to the FTD School students. There is no doubt about the inspiration to “never give up” and the encouragement to  “follow your dreams”  being  the most important lesson in “They Believed They Could Fly!… And They Did! The Tuskegee Airmen.”

Each child received a copy of the book signed by the author with special words of encouragement. These books were made possible by generous donations from the community. 

To make donations to the Ferdinand T Day School contact the President of the FTD PTA Mr. Diallo at [email protected]

To purchase a personal autographed copy of “They Believed They Could Fly!…And They Did!” go to

Could Fly!…And They Did! The Tuskegee Airmen” go to

{SEE ALSO: Author of Children’s Book on the Tuskegee Airmen Visits Ferdinand T. Day School (Part !)

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