Photos: Mary W. Jackson Elementary students set off rockets to honor their school’s namesake

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mary W. Jackson Elementary first grader Isaiah Kam, 7, launches his straw rocket as students commemorate their school’s namesake’s 100th birthday on Friday, April 9, 2021, with a special science lesson in the mechanics of rocket building. Salt Lake City’s oldest elementary school was renamed in 2018 in honor of the the first African American female engineer at NASA, with students recently voting to change their mascot to “The Rockets.”

Friday marked what would have been the 100th birthday of the late Mary Jackson, the first African American female engineer at NASA. Students in Salt Lake City who attend Mary W. Jackson Elementary marked the occasion by launching rockets.

Mary W. Jackson Elementary is the oldest elementary school in the city. It was originally named for former President Andrew Jackson, infamous for removing the Cherokee people from their land despite the objections of the Supreme Court, but was renamed in 2018.

Children celebrated the legacy of Mary Jackson, whose story was part of the book and movie “Hidden Figures,” by attending special science classes including the mechanics of rocket building. Older students were allowed to set off rockets on Friday afternoon.

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