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A School Community Chooses its Identity: Park Heights Academy

Collaborative community input process helped determine new identity, colors, and mascot  

Ideally, a school’s identity reflects the community it serves. And ideally, that identity is shaped and created by the community it supports. 

That is exactly what makes Park Heights Academy’s new name - and its newly named spaces like the Malcolm X Gymnatorium, the MLK Café, the Langston Hughes Library, and the Eagles Garden - so exciting. The new identity was confirmed this summer after a collaborative input process focused on the North Baltimore community’s reflection of, and vision for itself, and the values that impact the culture and climate.

When Edgecombe Circle Elementary and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary Middle School merged in 2020, City Schools launched an extensive process for families, students, educators, and Park Heights residents to consider all the elements that would make a new school feel transformative and like it was theirs - a new name, new names for spaces in the school, a new mascot, and colors for the school. What were they proud of? What history, in the neighborhood, in City Schools, and beyond, should be acknowledged? What references would inspire and motivate students? 

Through a community survey, neighborhood community groups, neighborhood leaders, students, parents, and teachers suggested names for the new school and for spaces within. The school’s School Family Council, including parents, guardians, staff, and community members, narrowed down the options; the finalists that this “Renaming Committee” chose included names related to the location of the school as well as inspiring historical figures like Harriett Tubman and Elijah Cummings. It was then time to vote! 

Last November, the presidential election served as the impetus and learning opportunity for the name selection. The renaming committee created a community-wide process where every student attending the school, educators at the school, and more than 100 community members selected their preference for the school identity. The result: the newly merged school would be named Park Heights Academy. And spaces within the school were named after prominent residents and Black leaders: the Malcolm X Gymnatorium, the MLK Café, the Langston Hughes Library, and the Eagles Garden

These new names reflect the strong pride in the neighborhood, the history of City Schools and school buildings that came before, and the groundbreaking leaders who have paved the way for this generation of students. Students, families, and the community want the school to be seen as being of, not just in, the neighborhood. Using the name of the neighborhood and of these leaders does exactly that.

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