Olivia Nieto Herrera Elementary School, formerly Lee Elementary, dedicated its campus in honor of the school’s new namesake last week to the cheers of students, staff, parents, community leaders and members of the Nieto Herrera family.
Olivia Nieto Herrera was an educator and highly respected advocate for disadvantaged families. She established Centro Shalom, which provides support – including food, housing, clothing and legal aid – to families in the neighborhood surrounding the school.
“She loved children, and everything she did was for the betterment of the people around you,” Amelia Nieto, daughter of Olivia Nieto Herrera, told the student body during a bright fall morning on the school playground.
Daughter Amelia led the student body in a chant of the phrase “Sí, se puede” (Spanish for "Yes it can be done,” the motto of the United Farm Workers and Cesar Chavez). She encouraged the students to repeat the phrase once more, loudly.
“Sí, se puede!” the students shouted.
“Now I know my mother heard you, and that’s music,” Nieto said. “My brothers and I are very excited about having the school named for my mom. We hope it will inspire you to help our community like my mother wanted to.”
The Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education decided in July to rename Lee Elementary School in honor of Olivia Nieto Herrera. The school’s new name became effective Aug. 1.
The renaming ceremony included the recitation of a student poem and the “Husky Pride Cheer” based upon the school’s newly chosen mascot. Students sang “We Are the World” and heard words of encouragement from Congressman Alan Lowenthal, Board of Education Member John McGinnis, LBUSD Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser, LBUSD Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Schools Brian Moskovitz and the school’s principal, Christi Granado.
“This is a wonderful, wonderful day,” Congressman Lowenthal told the students. “You can take great pride in your school. Olivia was a dear friend of mine. She was a great leader. She was an advocate for kids just like you.”
“Many of my brothers went to school with the Herrera family,” Superintendent Steinhauser informed the students. “Mrs. Herrera wanted everyone to achieve their dream, and that’s what she worked tirelessly for. And that’s what we want for you.”
Also in attendance was former school board member Mary Stanton, who served recently on the district’s school naming committee and nominated Olivia Nieto Herrera for the naming honor. Board member McGinnis recognized Stanton’s well received nomination and told the students, “We are very honored to have a school named after someone you can emulate.”