Navarro Middle School of Excellence celebrates renaming, honors namesake

Nearly 200 students, staff, and community members gathered Wednesday morning to celebrate the renaming of Yolanda Black Navarro Middle School of Excellence and pay tribute to the well-respected community leader who now serves as its namesake.

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On hand for the ceremony were family and friends of the late Yolanda Black Navarro, including HISD Board of Education Trustee Diana Dávila, HISD Superintendent Richard Carranza, U.S. Reps. Gene Green and Sheila Jackson Lee, State Sen. Sylvia Garcia, and son Christian Navarro, as well as many other Navarro family members and supporters.

“The name Yolanda Black Navarro represents the community today that it serves,” Navarro Principal Kelly Vaughn Pichon said, adding that the work of women such as Navarro rarely makes history books, but is “engraved in the hearts and minds of those positively affected.”

“Thank you, Yolanda Black Navarro, for your service not to only the Latino community, but for all people.”

The HISD Board of Education voted earlier this year to change the names of eight schools to better reflect the values and diversity of the district. Among the eight was Navarro, formerly known as Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson Middle School. The recommendation of Yolanda Black Navarro by the school’s renaming committee was unanimous.

“I am honored and humbled to have been part of the process, and I am honored and humbled even more so to have known that this school was going to be dedicated to Yolanda Black Navarro — a pillar of the community,” HISD Trustee Diana Dávila said, noting that the renaming was an accomplishment for both students and the East End community.

“Everyone knew of her accomplishments and great deeds. That is why this is a fitting name for this school — because we know greatness is going to come out of this school.”

Known as a civic and business leader rising from Houston’s East End, Yolanda Black Navarro became a community and city icon through her advocacy for children and the Latino community. She served on the METRO Board and the Houston Parks Board, and chaired Mayor Annise Parker’s Hispanic Advisory Committee.

After graduating from the University of Houston, Navarro served as a business manager with Southwestern Bell before dedicating herself to civic leadership. Navarro fought for equality among all Houstonians and helped disadvantaged youth by founding Shoes for Kids. She also was a founder of the Association for the Advancement of Mexican-Americans (AAMA), the recipient of the Mayor’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the East End Chamber of Commerce Small Business Award.

During the ceremony, Christian Navarro pledged the community’s support to the school as friends and family of his late mother presented the Navarro PTO with a $2,500 donation. He then helped Vaughn Pichon formally unveil the new school sign.

“To have a campus renamed after a Latina…it would give my mother great pride because all of her life was focused on this city and community, reflecting the diversity and strength of Latinos,” Christian Navarro said. “It is our hope that the children who attend this campus will be as innovative as her and achieve the things that she has achieved. She’s from the East End, and there’s no reason why other students can’t achieve the same things.”