By Kathy Chouteau
Betty Reid Soskin, the nation’s oldest living national park ranger, will receive a very special gift from the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) for her 100th birthday: a middle school named in her honor.
The public is invited to watch a live online broadcast of a celebration marking both Ms. Soskin’s birthday and the official renaming of Juan Crespi Middle School to Betty Reid Soskin Middle School at 9:30 a.m. Wed., Sept. 22 on Facebook Live (@westcontracostaschools). Dignitaries, the press and the school community will attend the event in-person.
The renaming of the 56-year-old El Sobrante middle school in Ms. Soskin’s honor was supported by a unanimous vote by the WCCUSD Board of Education in June.
“I am a firm believer in giving people their flowers while they are still here to smell them,” said Betty Reid Soskin Principal Guthrie Fleischman at the time of the board’s vote. “There are so few schools named after women and fewer named after women of color and even fewer named after black women.”
Ms. Soskin’s extraordinary personal legacy includes being an East Bay-based civil rights activist, musician and trailblazing businesswoman who co-founded Reid’s Records in Berkeley, one of the Bay Area’s first black-owned record stores, per her National Park Service bio. Today, via her work as a park ranger at the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historic Park in Richmond, she has emerged as a leading voice re: the diverse experiences of the wartime workers on the U.S. Homefront during World War II.