Utah school to be renamed to honor NASA's first black female engineer

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (News4Utah) – A Utah elementary school is changing its name. 

Tuesday evening the Salt Lake City School District Board of Education unanimously voted to approve a name change for Jackson Elementary School to "Mary Jackson Elementary School."

The school was originally named after U.S. President Andrew Jackson, but it will be re-named to honor Mary W. Jackson, who in 1958 became NASA’s first black female engineer.

Her story is among those recounted in the book Hidden Figures and in the film of the same name.

For several years, faculty and staff at Jackson Elementary had informally discussed a desire to change the school’s name.

Last year, the School Community Council at Jackson (made up of of parents and school staff) voted to create a committee tasked with gauging community interest in a formal name change.

"It's been a rewarding experience to watch as our school community has united with our neighborhood community to support a name change. Mary Jackson is a positive role model for all our students, and we are proud to now be the only school in the Salt Lake City School District named for a woman,” said Jackson Elementary School Principal Dr. Jana Edward.

District officials say the change will be especially meaningful because nearly 85 percent of Jackson Elementary’s students come from an ethnic minority background.

The NAACP applauded the school board's decision.  "I am extremely proud that the vote was unanimous."

"These young students can relate to the recent movie and book, "Hidden Figures" and dream of becoming an engineer. Students can now research and study about Mary Jackson and can proudly tell others about their newly named school," said NAACP Salt Lake Branch President Jeanetta Williams. 

According to Williams, with this name change, we may see more students with a greater awareness about STEM careers.

Mary W. Jackson successfully overcame the barriers of segregation and gender bias to become a professional aerospace engineer and leader in ensuring equal opportunities for future generations.

Read more about her life and contributions to NASA.

Details for a public renaming event will be announced later this spring.

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