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New City School Named After Mandela To Share Building With School He Once Visited

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Nelson Mandela will have a permanent place of honor in the city, as a middle school in Brooklyn that he once visited is being named in his honor. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

Boys and Girls High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant is where Daniel Goodine says he spent the best day of his life. It was 23 years ago, and he was on the security team helping protect Nelson Mandela, who had come to visit the Brooklyn school as thousands lined the streets.

"It was just a glorious day. Nothing compares to it," Goodine said. "There's no words to describe how we all felt."

Now, Mayor Michael Bloomberg says that next fall, Boys and Girls will share the building with a new school: the Nelson Mandela School of Social Justice.

"He once said that education was the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world," Bloomberg said. "I think a school named after him, and in a location he had visited, is a nice way for the city to pay tribute."

"This school really reaching generations of students to talk about the man, his beliefs and what social justice actually means," said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

Schools can only be named after people who are no longer living, but the chancellor acknowledged that this idea has been in the works for months.

"Mr. Mandela has been ill for a while, and we had internal conversations, as well as conversations with people outside of the DOE community, about one of the ways the Department of Education can honor Mr. Mandela," Walcott said.

Boys and Girls is the oldest public high school in Brooklyn. Nicknamed "the pride and joy of Bed-Stuy," it's an institution in this neighborhood.

Recently, though, the school has struggled considerably. Enrollment has dropped from 4,000 to less than 1,000, and last month, it earned an F on its report card for the third year in a row, setting a new record.  

The school has powerful supporters who have kept it from being closed and resisted plans for new schools in the building. Earlier this fall, the principal of Boys and Girls threatened to resign if the DOE opened the school that will now be named after Mandela.

The new name, though, seems to have silenced critics, at least for the moment. Elected and school officials who have been vocal in the past all declined to comment Friday.

People in the neighborhood said that they're pleased.

"Naming a school in his honor, in his name, it is good," said one person.

"They don't really talk about black history too much," Goodine said. "We know about a King, a Malcolm. Now, it's time for them to learn about Nelson Mandela."

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