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RCSD school renamed after pioneering Black educator Alice Holloway Young

WXXI-TV Norm & Company
Alice Holloway Young talks with WXXI's Norm Silverstein on the show Norm & Company in 2018.

The Rochester Board of Education voted Thursday to rename Nathaniel Rochester Middle School No. 3 to the Dr. Alice Holloway Young School of Excellence. 

The move comes after a petition to change the school’s name since Rochester, who founded the city in the 1800s, enslaved Black people.

Young, one of five names nominated for renaming the school, was the district’s first Black principal and pioneered the district’s urban-suburban program which still exists today.

“What a powerful example of what a Rochesterian can do to make a change in our community,” said board President Van White ahead of the vote. “So, I consider it an honor to be around to have this discussion with my colleagues.”

During Thursday night's meeting, White actually was the only board member who voted against the name change, but that was because he had issues with how the name change process was handled. He wanted to wait until the start of the school year to more thoroughly work on public engagement over the change.

District officials said that after a petition was presented to district Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small asking for the name change to be considered, a community forum was held on June 23 where seven speakers participated.

Credit RCSD
RCSD School #3, formerly named after the city's founding settler Nathanial Rochester, is now named the Alice Holloway Young School of Excellence.

Young was a founding trustee of Monroe Community College. Earlier this year, she was awarded the Liberty Medal, the highest award the state Senate can grant.

“This is truly an unexpected honor,” Young told WXXI News on Thursday about renaming the school in her honor. “It makes me speechless.” 

In an interview with WXXI-TV for the program "Norm & Company" in 2018, Young recounted her first job at a migrant camp. She noticed the workers would sign their name with “X.”

“So I said, ‘You’re going to learn to write your name before you leave,’ and after working all day in the hot field, they come to me and learn to write their names,” Young told WXXI President Norm Silverstein. “It was then I decided I was going to become a teacher.”

Young said on Thursday that education was a core value in her family. Though her father was unable to complete his schooling for lack of opportunities, when she was a child, her parents moved from Virginia to North Carolina so that she could attend a school that accepted African Americans. 

“To have to make so much sacrifice just to go to a school is overwhelming and then now to have a school named in my name, that’s very humbling.”

Here is the October 2018 "Norm & Company" episode  where Alice Holloway Young was interviewed by Silverstein:

Noelle E. C. Evans is an education reporter/producer with a background in documentary filmmaking and education.