Richmond's Urban Fellow, Erika Gay, helped plan this Every Kid in a Park event. Read more about the event below.
"In Maggie Walker's day, a woman in a national leadership position like Deputy Director O'Dell's was inconceivable. The leadership and successes of women like Mrs. Walker continue to inspire us." More than 50 fourth-grade students from George Washington Carver Elementary School listened closely as their principal, Dr. Kiwana Yates, offered this moving introduction of Deputy Director Peggy O'Dell on Wednesday, March 23, at a special program highlighting National Women's History Month, Every Kid in a Park, and the National Park Service Centennial.
Also joining the group was Maggie L. Walker herself, portrayed by actress Jil Wilson, who described Walker's significant contributions to the African-American Civil Rights Movement at the turn of the twentieth century. Several students stood alongside Wilson and gave first-person readings as Maggie Walker's contemporaries, including Booker T. Washington, Mary McLeod Bethune and Mary Church Terrell. Students were then invited to make buttons depicting the logo of the Independent Order of St. Luke, the organization Walker grew from a burial society into a thriving life insurance company and business model that improved the lives of African Americans in Richmond and nationwide. At the close of the program, the Deputy Director presented each student with an Every Kid in a Park pass and Find Your Park backpack.
"During the Centennial of the National Park Service, our goal is to connect with the next generation of park-goers, and we were able to do that today at George Washington Carver Elementary School through the Every Kid in a Park program," said Deputy Director O'Dell. "I look forward to seeing these future stewards in our national parks."
In addition to visiting Carver Elementary, the Deputy Director engaged with Virginia Commonwealth University students participating in a social justice class and held a luncheon with community and state leaders, including Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward, to discuss Urban Agenda partnerships and projects.
"The staff of Maggie L. Walker NHS was honored to celebrate Walker's legacy with Deputy Director O'Dell during Women's History Month and to showcase the work we've done at the site and with the local community," said Superintendent David Ruth.
Story written by Andrea DeKoter