Waterloo school creates ‘Walk of Fame’ to celebrate community leaders during Black History Month

Published: Feb. 28, 2021 at 10:23 PM CST
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WATERLOO, Iowa (KCRG) - The walls of Central Middle School in Waterloo look like a lot of other schools.

But throughout February, the posters hanging along one of those walls made it different from the rest.

“African-American History Month is — you always get the big names that come to mind with Martin and Malcolm and Rosa Parks and whatnot,” social studies teacher Tim Hopper said. “But how can we make a world here in Waterloo?”

Their answer: creating a Walk of Fame, styled after the famous promenade in Hollywood. But instead of names and handprints set in cement, this version features posters with photos, biographical information, and signatures etched in marker.

“I liked seeing how much people we had in our community that achieved so much that I didn’t even know about,” seventh-grader Alyssa Muheljic said.

Muheljic was one of the students who interviewed Black difference-makers living in the Waterloo area about what they do and what got them to that point, writing the stories down for everyone at the school to read.

Inductees also included an inspirational quote or message for students.

“Especially with the kids coming in and looking at these posters, it could also show that you could be one of the people on these posters. It could be you one day,” seventh-grader Anyjah Redd said.

As part of the Black History Month project, Central Middle School selected someone each school day in February as the day’s honoree, talked about them during the daily announcements, and dedicated the day of learning to them. The inductees were also invited to the school to sign their poster and take a photo with it alongside students.

“I think the most exciting part actually at the end of the day is walking out here, and it’s almost every single day, you see a student standing here and reading,” Assistant Principal Mike Landers said.

Among the honorees are Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart, the city’s first Black mayor, leaders of the Waterloo Community School District, and National Wrestling Hall of Famer Mike Allen, Iowa’s first Black wrestling official.

But so many of the posters include the same three words: “Born in Waterloo.”

“When we hear about Black History Month, we’re taught about Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Ruby Bridges, all of them,” seventh-grader Siyanna Cody said. “And that’s great. That’s really important for us to acknowledge, but to be able to bring the people of our community in and acknowledge them for Black History Month was different, and I felt like it was more personal.

“We got to acknowledge them and say, ‘Well I don’t have to be someone famous. I don’t have to make this big impact.’”

More than 90 people were nominated by school staff and students to be part of the Walk of Fame in its inaugural year.

“This is my 32nd year in the Waterloo Community Schools, and this has to be one of the highlights,” Central Middle School Assistant Principal Michael Thomas said. “This is something I’ll never forget.”

Thomas said he hopes his poster shows how much he cares about the school.

Around the corner, inductee Tim Moses wants his poster to encourage students to dream.

“Just believe and speak those dreams into existence, believe in those dreams. Anything’s possible,” said Moses, the athletic director at East High School in Waterloo and a former teacher at Central.

Central staff said the Walk of Fame will be a tradition for Februarys to come, imparting wisdom and inspiration relevant every day of the year.

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