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Peoria Public Schools celebrate new names for district buildings

Family and friends of Annie Jo Gordon pose for a picture in front of new school signage.
Collin Schopp
Family and friends of Annie Jo Gordon pose for a picture in front of new school signage.

Harrison Community Learning Center is now the Annie Jo Gordon Community Learning Center. The school is one of five Peoria Public schools starting the 2022-23 year with a new name.

Family, friends and admirers of Annie Jo Gordon gathered in front of the school Tuesday evening to celebrate the new name and the life that inspired it.

“She was just a person who gave so much of herself, but didn’t view herself with a lot of ego, or a lot of pretension,” said Jehan Gordon-Booth, Annie Jo’s daughter and an Illinois state representative. “She was just someone who believed in service of God, service of her family, and service of her community.”

Speakers included Gordon-Booth, Annie Jo's husband, son and district officials, as well as people who worked with her during her 40-plus years as an employee of the Tri-County Urban League. Many had a story about a time she had helped them find a job.

“She’s always served and tried to help people get a better life,” said Peoria Public Schools Board president Martha Ross. “You know, she puts so many people in places, in jobs, just by being who she is, you know, working with companies that didn’t allow African Americans, she would get some of those jobs.”

The ribbon cutting ceremony was one of five that the district held this week. Ross said the name changes aren’t so much about getting rid of a name, as putting names on the schools that the children who go there can aspire to be like.

“They started years ago, as business owners, queens and king, and they have contributed to this country,” she said. “They need to know what they’ve contributed. So these are the kinds of things we’re doing to make sure that the kids know.”

In addition to Harrison, Calvin Coolidge Middle School is now Harold B. Dawson Jr. Middle School, Roosevelt Magnet School is now Elise Ford Allen Academy, Washington Gifted Middle School is Reservoir Gifted Academy, and Charles Lindbergh Middle School is Liberty Leadership Middle School.

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Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.