In a community rich with history, Sunnyside has another reason to be proud — a new addition to Worthing High School, which will open its doors to students and neighbors with an open house and dedication ceremony on Aug. 18.
Though the new building embodies 21st century design, it honors the history of Sunnyside with a mural painted in the tradition of African American folk art that will be unveiled in the school’s learning commons.
“It’s only fitting to honor Sunnyside Pride with this beautiful art work, which will serve as a reminder to those who attend Worthing High School about the community’s commitment to education as a path to success,” said HISD Board of Education Trustee Wanda Adams.
The mural was commissioned in 2013 at the suggestion of alumna Marye Dean. She hoped to honor her mentors — State Rep. Alma Allen and Sen. Rodney Ellis — whom she credits with helping launch her successful career as a Wall Street attorney. Dean worked with state politicians, local community leaders, and young people to secure a $5,000 grant to create the mural.
Keeping the project local, she selected former Worthing art teacher Richard Williams, who now teaches at Sterling High School, to design and create the piece.
“I’m hoping it inspires a sense of togetherness and sense of duty,” Dean said. The mural was inspired by the African American proverb Each One Teach One, which had its origins in slavery. It was illegal for slaves to learn to read and get an education. A slave who learned to read had the duty to teach another. “By being in the library at Worthing, I’m hoping that the theme `Each One Teach One’ resonates.”
The mural depicts Ellis standing on the shoulders of Allen. The pair has a connection that dates from the sixties, when Allen was Ellis’ third-grade teacher at Grimes Elementary.
Ellis, who graduated from Worthing High School in 1972, attended TSU and earned his M.A. in Public Affairs from the University of Texas and his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law. In 1984, he was elected to Houston City Council, where he served three terms representing District D. He was elected to the state senate in 1990 and now is running unopposed for the Precinct 1 seat on the Harris County Commissioner’s Court.
“My time at Worthing served as a springboard for my life and career, making lifelong friends and even serving as the president of the student council, “ Ellis said. “So I hope the mural serves as an inspiration for students to live according to the Each One Teach One mantra: as they graduate with a sound education from Worthing, it becomes their responsibility to pass that knowledge along to future generations.”
When Allen decided to run for the Texas House of Representatives in 2003 after serving 10 years on the State Board of Education, Ellis was her first campaign contributor.
“This is an historical event, as it captures a small part of the history of the Sunnyside area, and I am honored to be a part of that history,” Allen said. “Having worked in the Houston Independent School District for 39 years, I have taught many students, who I am very proud of. Sen. Rodney Ellis is one of those students, depicted in the mural. There are thousands of others who have made Sunnyside equally as proud. I hope this serves as an inspiration to continue the success of Sunnyside’s students and educators.”
The Each One Teach One theme is expressed throughout the mural, which features a window looking out at a variety of careers, with the state capitol in the background. Also in the mural is an image of Alice Sidney, the first principal of Grimes Elementary, who helped educate and inspire Allen.
The mural is Williams’ first commissioned piece of work, and he sees it as a reflection of his own teaching career, in which he has spent decades trying to inspire and motive young people to find their potential.
“You can make a difference,” he said. “When children are educated, they all have the opportunity to make better choices.”