Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary School
Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary school is formerly known as 102 Street Early Education Center or school and was reopened to its community on January 14, 2000 to honor Florence Griffith Joyner Olympic athlete. Being an Olympic champion in both 100 and 200- meter dash, children who live in California from San Diego to Mission Viejo looked up to this athlete for making it out of urban areas and living out her dreams through track and field. Unfortunately, Florence Griffith Joyner passed away from an epileptic seizure, but the legacy she leaves behind for the children who lives in her childhood neighborhood is outstanding. The Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary School inspires children to fulfill their dreams despite their community’s appearance through education.
Backstory and Context
Before the world knew Florence Griffith Joyner for her style and speed in the world of Track and Field, she lived in Watts public housing in Southern Los Angeles, California. Within her neighborhood Florence attended 102nd Street Early Education Center. Florence’s family was encouraged by their community to join Sugar Ray Robison Youth Foundation to engage in multiple extra-curricular activities including Track and Field competitions. From this Florence Griffith Joyner obtained various titles in college and beyond from the inspiration she received during adolescence. For instance in 1982 Florence Griffith had the opportunity to compete at National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) first combined Track and Field championship for Women sport teams. Some of the titles she received during these competitions was NCAA 200 meter- champion in 1982 with a time of 22.39. Following year in 1983 Florence was NCAA 400 -meter champion with a time of 50.94; she represented University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) during both meets.
Following her UCLA career Florence placed a world record time of 21.34 seconds in the 200- meter dash, at 1988 Seoul Olympics. During the 1988 Seoul Olympic season Florence set two more world records in the 100 meter dash with 10.49 seconds during pre-trials, and 10.54 wind aided during the final. Throughout her interviews with sports castors about Florence's childhood possibly shaping her career 102nd street Early Education center was constantly mentioned. After several years of competing in Track & Field Florence developed various projects to assist children from her background. One project was creating a non-profit in 1992 called the Florence Griffith Joyner Youth Foundation(FGJYF), their mission is: inspire & provide youth with recourses to live a healthy lifestyle and follow their dreams through Track & Field. (1)
Through FGJYF, the Olympic medalist was provided opportunities to visit and speak at local schools. Florence expressed to each child to stay focused on their goals and pursue their dreams regardless of someone's opinions. Despite Florence Griffith Joyner’s passing on September 21, 1998 FGJYF was recognized for their endeavors and mission statement. According to Johnathon E. Briggs of Los Angeles Times, a key board member of the Los Angeles Unified School District, Barbra Bouderaux declared multiple schools in Los Angeles area to be renamed after Famous African Americans.(2) Possibly moved by the unfortunate passing of the Watts native, 102nd Street School was placed on a list for renaming. On January 14, 2000 102nd Street School was renamed to Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary, and crucial people crucial who kept Florence’s legacy alive attended. These people included FGJYF Board Chairs and her family (mother: Florence D. Griffith, sister: Elizabeth Tate, and husband Al Joyner).
In the beginning the school was provided with quality school supplies and materials for the children to learn through donations. One donation was over $1,000 that came from Florence’s other nonprofit by her husband Al Joyner called “Flo Jo Memorial Community Empowerment Foundation” (2).
“Joyner announced a $2,000 donation to the school from the Flo Jo Memorial Community Empowerment Foundation to help buy supplies and books.” 2
As time continued, the school’s strength to learn with less school supplies depends on it’s school educators, and local officials to ask for the resources. For instance, in 2010 this school joined Partnership for Los Angeles Schools to develop learning plans to reach higher testing levels. (6) Hereafter in 2017, Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary qualified for a grant under Michelle Obama’s Turnaround Arts Program Initiative with The Kennedy Center. This initiative is used to boost “low performing schools through the arts” (5). Despite the surroundings of Watts neighborhood, this school in recent years has made efforts in learning different tools for effective communication within the student body (4). From the outside looking in, Florence Griffith Joyner elementary is a subpar school and a working progress. For teachers like Veronica Amis, giving students an opportunity to increase their self-worth through academics is more important.(6)
“It is, as always, to make sure to give my 100 percent effort. That every child that is enrolled in my class, and even in my grade level, that every child makes progress towards meeting their goals.” 6
Although the school is making improvements, it still needs various grants for funding and staff to make the school a conducive learning environment. With this in mind, Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary School is important to this athlete’s Track & Field legacy. For the year of 2000 the re-dedication of this school was a start for California creating new landmarks around Florence for citizens to visit or attend. The original intentions to re-dedicate this school was to honor Florence and FGJYF's work done for its community. This school represents a transition within Florence Griffith Joyner life from once attending a school in a “ghetto” to persuading the next generation to pursue their aspirations. Although this school is not considered acceptable by state law requirements it is a constant reminder for the teachers, coaches, and other nonprofits within the Los Angeles to take value in the education system.
- About Us, Florence Griffith Joyner Youth Foundation. Accessed March 23rd 2020. http://florencegriffithjoyneryouthfoundation.blogspot.com/p/about-us.html.
- Briggs, Johnathon E.. School Renamed for Late Track Star Griffith Joyner, Los Angeles Times. January 15th 2000. Accessed March 23rd 2020. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2000-jan-15-me-54154-story.html.
- Childs, Joy. The mother behind the Olympian reveals the spirit that was Flo Jo, L.A. Watts Times. August 10th 2012. Accessed March 23rd 2020. https://lawattstimes.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=342:the-mother-behind-the-olympian-reveals-the-spirit-that-was-flo-jo&catid=12&Itemid=110 .
- Hall, Clara. Keeping Students in School, UCLA Blue Print. Accessed March 23rd 2020. https://blueprint.ucla.edu/sketch/keeping-students-in-school/.
- Lee, Elizabeth. Arts Program in Poor Performing Schools Boosts Learning, VOA News. April 26th 2017. Accessed March 23rd 2020. https://www.voanews.com/arts-culture/arts-program-poor-performing-schools-boosts-learning.
- Romero, Esmeralda Fabián . Teacher Spotlight: Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary School's Veronica Amis, 34 years of teaching in Watts with 'unconditional love', LA School Report. October 9th 2019. Accessed March 23rd 2020. http://laschoolreport.com/teacher-spotlight-florence-griffith-joyner-elementary-schools-veronica-amis-34-years-of-teaching-in-watts-with-unconditional-love/.
- Schwartz, Kris. FloJo Made Speed Fashionable, ESPN. ESPN Classic. Accessed March 23rd 2020. https://www.espn.com/classic/biography/s/Griffith_Joyner_Florence.html.
- Wakely, Ralph. The 1982 Track and Field Championships, combining the..., UPI. June 6th 1982. Accessed March 24th 2020. https://www.upi.com/Archives/1982/06/06/The-1982-NCAA-Track-and-Field-Championships-combining-the/1221392184000/.