Aovoz.com:Amid intense nationwide debate over immigration policies, a California school board is naming a new elementary school after an undocumented immigrant.
The school in Mountain View, Californnia, will now hold the name of Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who came to the United States from the Philippines in 1993 when he was 12.
“I don’t really have words for how meaningful this honor is, I’ve been speechless for a few days,” Vargas, 37, told CNN. “I hope that this is a school where students and their families feel welcome in America, no matter where they come from.”
The goal is for the school near San Jose to open for grades K-5 in 2019, according to Mountain View Whisman School District documents.
The school board approved the naming last week after Vargas was one of five people whose names were suggested for the new school by members of the community.
Laura Blakely, president of the school board, told CNN the district was looking to name the school after someone who embodied the value of education.
“He’s just a really inspirational leader,” Blakely said of Vargas. “If [students] hear Jose’s story, we hope it will empower them to focus on their education, work hard and make a difference in the world.”
Blakely said the district includes families from all over the world, from Latin America to Europe to Asia.
“The students see their story in his story,” she said.
As a product of the district’s schools, Vargas said he was overwhelmed by “this totally unexpected and deeply meaningful honor.”
“I think every undocumented immigrant in this country wherever you are … from the big regions to the small towns, we’re defined by our communities. I grew up in that community. This feels so special,” he said.
While the award was an honor to him, some have taken to social media to express their anger that “an illegal immigrant’s” name is on a school. One person posting on the Twitter account of Vargas’ organization referred to him as “a cheat and a liar.”