BY ROGER MOONEY
For Daarina Cue, an 11th grader at The Foundation Academy in Jacksonville, marching in the city’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade is a “great experience.”
The people who line the parade route cheer the students as they pass by while carrying large photos of Martin Luther King Jr. and other luminary figures of Black history.
It is not lost on Daarina that some of those people received a much different reaction when they marched during the civil rights movement
The parade, Daarina said, “is very meaningful, since it’s our history. It also means a lot since we see what they accomplished in life. We can keep doing what they did.”
More than 70 students, staffers and parents of The Foundation Academy participated Jan. 17 in Jacksonville’s 41st MLK Holiday Grand Parade. It was the seventh consecutive year the private K-12 school has marched in the parade.
“Our diverse school wanted to show that we honor our African-American brothers and sisters,” Principal Nadia Hionides said.
This year’s theme was “Strength In Unity.” The float, pulled by one of the school’s vans, was lined with cutout figures depicting children of every race and nationality holding hands. Those who walked alongside wore sandwich boards with photos of Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Mae Jemison (first black female astronaut to travel into space), Fredrick Jones (inventor, entrepreneur), George Washington Carver, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and other notable people in Black history.
“The first time I learned about the history of myself, I really got to see how my ancestors used to be, and I am honestly proud to be Black,” said Nasiyah Halls, a seventh grader.
Nasiyah echoed Daarina’s sentiment when he said participating in the parade was “a great experience.”
“Loved the people. Loved the energy,” he said.
Like Daarina, Nasiyah attends the school on a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship managed by Step Up For Students. The Foundation Academy has a student body of 375, with 231 attending on a Step Up scholarship. That total includes 179 on FTC Scholarships.
In a head start to National School Choice Week, which begins Jan. 23, the school incorporated education choice into its celebration. Students wore yellow National School Choice Week scarves. Those in the elementary grades who rode on the float wore orange T-shirts from Step Up that included the words “Parent Power.”
Many of those who walked wore blue T-shirts with the words “I AM ESSENTIAL” printed on the front. Tia Unthink, the school’s admissions director, said that message is shared among the student body every day.
“When you come to our school, you don’t see one color, you see all colors represented,” she said. “You see multiple nationalities represented, and that’s the only way we will ever present ourselves, because we are all children of God. We are all capable and are excellent in what we do. We want the students who attend TFA to see themselves in leadership.”
Roger Mooney, manager, communications, can be reached at email@example.com.