The Washington Post

Prince George’s students attend Rosa Parks statue unveiling

President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi help unveil the statue of civil rights movement icon Rosa Parks at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

The invitation arrived by e-mail late Friday night.

U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner asked students from Rosa L. Parks Elementary School in Prince George’s County to attend the unveiling ceremony of the nine-foot bronze statue of Rosa L. Parks in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall.

The students watched Wednesday as President Obama and congressional leaders pulled the blue drape off the statute honoring the civil rights icon whose actions led to the desegregation of public facilities across the South.

Tyann Sumpter, 11, said Thursday that she was happy she had the opportunity to witness history, an experience she will never forget.

“It was awesome,” said Sumpter, a sixth-grader at Rosa Parks. “When the president spoke about her, it was really cool.”

But Christian Salvador, 11, said that what he will remember most is when the president finished his speech. That was when Obama spoke to him and his classmates.

“He said, ‘How are you doing?’ ” Salvador said. “We said, ‘Good.’ ”

“He said, ‘Are you good at school?’ ” And we said, ‘Yes.’ ”

“I was like, ‘President Obama spoke to us!’ ” Salvador said.

To cap it off, the students met and shook hands with Parks’s family members.

“I met her nieces and nephews,” Sumpter said, apparently still in disbelief. “Most of the stuff they said about her I already knew, but I didn’t realize she had so much family that was still alive. So that was nice to know.”

Tara Minter, principal at Rosa Parks, said she took 20 fifth- and sixth-graders from the school’s student council club to attend the ceremony.

Minter said the event was extra special for her as an educator because so many of her students are first-generation Americans.

“I looked at some of the students and many are from other countries,” she said. “[Parks] fought for equality. And here I have these students, and no matter where they are from, they can get an education.”

Ovetta Wiggins covers Maryland state politics in Annapolis.

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