Westminster Park Teaches History of Segregation at OC Schools With Augmented Reality – NBC Southern California
The City of Westminster, in conjunction with the Orange County Department of Education, inaugurated the Mendez Tribute Monument Park, to honor the legacy of Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez in their fight to desegregate public schools in California.
The park is located on the northeast corner of Westminster Boulevard and Olive Street, and displays the figures of Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez, who were at the forefront of the civil rights case, Mendez vs. Westminster.
It also features sculpted student figures to symbolize the 5,000 children represented in the legal action that laid the groundwork for the U.S. Supreme Court decision.
It was the 1940’s when Sylvia Mendez’s father, Gonzolo, sued the Westminster School District demanding his children be given the same education as white children. Until then, Sylvia and her siblings went to an all-Mexican school. He won the lawsuit. Eight years later, schools across the country were no longer segregated.
“He lost everything fighting this case y nada se dijo ‘gracias Gonzalo, thank you for what you’ve done.’ And I think this is it this is where they’re saying, ‘gracias, Gonzolo,'” Sylvia said.
Five years in the making, the park has it’s own WiFi and QR codes that lead visitors to even more history, always with the focus on education, and on bettering the minority student.
“Little by little as they get educated and get better jobs and are able to move out of areas of poverty. I see hope,” said her sister, Sandra Duran Mendez.
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Mendez sees college as the great equalizer now, no matter where a child is from.
“The students cannot say, ‘well we can’t go on and get our education,’ because there’s nothing to stop them. They just have to persevere and that’s my favorite word, persevere,” she said.
The park sits just blocks from the school where Sylvia was denied entrance nearly 80 years ago, in a school district that today is 45% Hispanic.
The Mendez’s say although they appreciate this park and the legacy it holds for so many they have another goal. They no longer want to be a footnote in a textbook.
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