“Always stand up for what you believe in, just like my senior quote.” This is what Colorado Grand Valley High School senior Naomi Peña Villasano said, which is a fitting representation of her recent struggle with her school board and local government about wearing a Mexican-American sash on graduation day. 

The school principal, district superintendent, and a Denver U.S. District Court judge told her no. Their reasoning cited district authorities’ fears of triggering displays of the Confederate flag and wanting to “protect the symbolic traditions that signify the graduates’ academic accomplishments and services to the community.”

Peña Villasano was warned by Superintendent Jennifer Baugh and Garfield 16 administration she’d be barred from the graduation ceremony if she wore the stole. Regardless, she walked across the stage with the sash, featuring Stars and Stripes on one end and symbols of the flag of Mexico on the other, and received her diploma. Despite going against the verdict, Peña Villasano was met with no incident or hassle – only smiles.

Today’s youth has an unwavering dedication to authenticity, culture, and “fighting the good fight,” which is exactly what our future needs. We need prideful and ambitious leaders like Naomi Peña Villasano, who won’t take no for an answer when advocating for themselves and their culture to be seen. 

Our team at Clayco continuously works toward one core purpose – lifting others and helping them break through and rise above the barriers of race, income, gender, and beyond. 

Let’s work together towards equity and equal representation and strive to better our understanding of the diverse, rich cultures and people that contribute to our planet. 

Most importantly, we must stand up for ourselves and others who need it – even if we stand alone. 

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