If your dreams don’t include others, they’re not big enough.
Those are words Dorothy Hollingsworth echoed during her nearly 50 years as an educator, and they’re what her family hopes the next generation of students at the new Hollingsworth Academy never forget.
On Thursday, Evergreen Public Schools celebrated the grand opening of its new 61,000-square-foot campus at 13400 N.E. Ninth St. Three new alternative-learning programs were opened: Hollingsworth Academy (formerly 49th Street Academy), Legacy High School and the Transitional Program for students ages 18-21. All three were constructed as part of a $695 million bond package Evergreen voters passed in 2018 to build 10 schools and upgrade other facilities.
But the spotlight Thursday belonged to the woman for whom the academy is named. Hollingsworth spent most of her career in Seattle advocating for children and started discussions around equity and equality in education. After being denied a teaching position in Seattle in 1949, she went into social work, and she worked to empower and lift up children of color. She also was named the inaugural director of Seattle Public Schools’ Head Start program in 1965, and she became the first Black woman elected to Seattle’s school board in 1975. She later served on the Washington State Board of Education until her retirement in 1993.
Hollingsworth turns 101 in October, and she came down to Vancouver from her home in SeaTac to be part of the celebration Thursday. Principal Amber Lindly provided a tour for Hollingsworth and her family of the therapeutic day school that serves about 60 students in grades K-12. The new building features classrooms, a library, a gymnasium and outdoor spaces. There are also photos of Hollingsworth displayed at the school’s main entrance.
Hollingsworth cherished the day and said it’s one of the best moments of her life. The school’s nickname is the Hedgehogs.
“It’s wonderful,” she said of the school.
Hollingsworth didn’t have prior connections to the district, but the Evergreen district’s board of directors unanimously approved the name Hollingsworth Academy after 49th Street students researched names and presented the final choices to the school board in February 2020. Afterward, and just prior to her 100th birthday last fall, Hollingsworth wrote a letter to the academy telling students to “continue to dream big, keep smiling and lead with love.”
“Your life will be filled with ups and downs,” she continued, “lefts and rights, but you must always remember that it’s a part of the process. Continue to treat others with kindness, compassion and empathy. Don’t be afraid to take risks and be adventurous. There is something special in being different and standing up for what you believe in.”
The Hollingsworths are a family full of educators, and daughter Jackie Roberts said that Thursday represented a culmination of her mother’s work during her career. They’re also grateful for the recognition.
“Her natural inclination is to help people, and we’re so glad that she can understand and she’s here and that she appreciates it,” Roberts said. “She can feel it, she can sense it and she can see it — that’s the most important thing.”