Bay Area school named after Fil-Am immigrant rights advocate Jose Antonio Vargas

Rommel Conclara, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 17 2019 09:55 AM

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An elementary school in Mountain View, California has been named after Filipino undocumented migrant Jose Antonio Vargas.

The opening of the Jose Antonio Vargas Elementary School was attended by parents, teachers and members of the community.

Vargas is a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, bestselling author, successful filmmaker and an immigrant rights advocate through his nonprofit group Define American.

He said having a school named after him is the biggest honor he has ever received.

“This means the world to me, and the fact that it’s a mile from where I grew up, in the town I grew up in, in a town that has more Filipinos in it. And I made a real effort in the speech even to little kids to talk about there was a time in this country when Filipinos were not allowed even though we’ve been in this country before there was a United States of America,” Vargas said.

Vargas' friends and family came from all over the country to celebrate the historic occasion.

“This is a big, big honor and pride for all of us. Mabuhay!” said Aida Abaga Rivera, Vargas’ aunt.

At the event, parents and children were able to take a look inside the new classrooms and play on the new field.

“It is an entirely new building, all new facilities. We have two stories over there and it looks wonderful. There’s still some construction projects on the way in terms of the field but we’re so excited to have a brand new school,” said school principal Vern Taylor.

Filipino-American Sarah Reginaldo said she is proud of what the school represents. Reginaldo is the president of the parent-teacher association and her children will be attending the school.

“Having chosen him and his undocumented status, it shows that this community values what you do more than the labels that are put on you,” she said.

For Vargas, the school will always remind him of his humble beginnings.

“The irony is that the school is for kindergarten to 5th graders and I was in the Philippines for those years. I guess whoever God is, that’s God’s way of trying to remind me that I was a kid. And the fact that I’ll be part of their lives and they’ll be part of mine, I don't have words for that. What a blessing,” he said.

Classes at Vargas Elementary will begin on Monday, August 19.

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