Los Cerritos Elementary School students

Martin Elementary Students Spur City Council to Proclaim November 14 Ruby Bridges Day

Students from Deborah Carlino’s fifth grade class at Martin Elementary School in South San Francisco Unified School District (SSFUSD) thanked the city council October 23 for designating November 14 as Ruby Bridges Day citywide.

“Ruby Bridges has been a bridge between many different people, and we are grateful for her efforts,” said fifth grader Yuvia Gonzalez, addressing the city council. “Thank you for joining us on this journey. . .We appreciate you, Mayor Matsumoto, Trustee Murray, Mr. Garbarino, Superintendent Moore, Principal Covacha, and County Safe Routes Coordinator Vallez-Kelly for all that each of you does for our community.”

The city council’s action is the latest development in a two-year effort by Martin Elementary School students to gain wider recognition for Civil Rights icon Ruby Bridges, who helped integrate the William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans as a six-year-old in 1960.

Her story first inspired Martin Elementary students in 2017.

According to Carlino, fifth graders in her class that year wanted to find a way to recognize the contributions of Ruby Bridges after learning about her during African-American History month. 

She said when her students discovered there was no special day set aside to commemorate Bridges in the United States, they decided to start a petition to establish one.

“So they [the students] went out and collected over 1,000 signatures,” said Carlino. “They took these signatures, and they went before the school board in South San Francisco, and they requested that every November 14 would be Ruby Bridges Day, and it was unanimously voted through.”

The next year, the students took their petition to the county level.

The result was the same.

The San Mateo County Office of Education (SMCOE) designated November 14 as Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day for public schools throughout the county.

The choice of November 14 is significant.

That was the date that Bridges first entered the previously segregated William Frantz Elementary School in the company of U.S. marshals.

“She [Ruby Bridges] has inspired children in my class, in my school, in our community to reach out and make a difference,” said Carlino. “Her life, her sacrifices, her choices so long ago are still inspiring people to stand up and be great people.”

SSFUSD serves the communities of Daly City, South San Francisco, and San Bruno and is home to a highly regarded STEM program and more than 8,000 students at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.