One of the District of Columbia’s oldest public schools will celebrate nearly a century of existence with a series of events highlighting the school’s journey.

Whittier Education Campus, located in the upper Northwest section of the city, will fete its nine decades of operations starting with a Nov. 14 “Jersey Day” and an open house for former students, staffers and the general public on Nov. 15. “It’s a nice way to bring everyone back together while teaching children the history of the school,” Tenia Pritchard, the school’s principal said. “Teaching children history gives them a sense of pride.”

Whittier Education Campus, one of Washington D.C.’s oldest public schools, will host a celebration marking its anniversary. (Courtesy Photo)

In 1923, the Manor Park Citizens Association passed a resolution requesting a new elementary school be built in their neighborhood because there was widespread dissatisfaction with the existing Brightwood Elementary School and its perceived unsanitary conditions. When a Brightwood Elementary School student was struck by a car in 1924, the citizens association threatened to take students out of the school until the District government agreed to build a new building.

With the support of D.C. Schools Superintendent Frank W. Ballou and the school board, and a congressional appropriation, the school was built and opened in 1926. The school was named after noted abolitionist and journalist John Greenleaf Whittier.

What makes Whittier’s founding so unusual is that it is the product of a grassroots effort. In the 1920s, citizens had to go to the U.S. Congress for funding of any public building in the city, even though the District was governed by three commissioners. The school board at that time was largely advisory.

The neighborhood surrounding Whittier was predominantly White and the District’s school system was segregated by race. More Blacks began to move into Whittier’s immediate area, starting in the 1950s, and now the Manor Park and Brightwood neighborhoods are overwhelmingly Black.

Whittier’s student population is 79 percent Black, 17 percent Latino and the rest White, Asian, and Native American, according to statistics from the D.C. public schools.

The school educates students from pre-school to the 8th grade and serves as a feeder to Calvin Coolidge High School. It is a STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics) institution with activities such as a debate club and boys and girls basketball teams.

Whittier does have its challenges. On the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career) test administered during the 2014-2015 school year, 30 percent of all students didn’t meet student proficiency levels in English and language arts, and in math, 38 percent only partially met those standards. Nevertheless, Angela Stribling, a 20-year teacher at the school said it is a productive place for young people.

“I am very happy to be working in a wonderful place where students can grow and learn in a positive environment,” Stribling told the AFRO. “I am now educating my second generation of students where I am teaching the children of my former students. We have established great connections that way.”

Pritchard said the celebration events are designed to showcase the school to the community.

“I thought it would be an opportunity to not only inform students about alumni and their achievements, but also a way to bring the community together as a whole,” she said.

On Nov. 17, there will be a “Glow Birthday Party” for students and a spaghetti dinner for families in addition to contests for poetry, posters, and essays. From 8 pm-midnight Nov. 18, there will be a gala at the V.I.P. Room, 6201 3rd Street., N.W. Pritchard said alumni, current and former staffers, elected officials, and friends of the school are expected to attend.