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Yasuhara, Flett Middle Schools welcome first students

Dean Nakagawa, president of the Hifumi Society of Spokane, speaks to new students at Denny Yasuhara Middle School
Rebecca White
Dean Nakagawa, president of the Hifumi Society of Spokane, speaks to new students at Denny Yasuhara Middle School

Two new middle schools opened Tuesday in Spokane, one named for human rights activist Denny Yasuhara, and the other for Pauline Flett, a Spokane tribal member who worked for decades to preserve the Salish language.

Two new middle schools opened Tuesday in Spokane, one named for human rights activist Denny Yasuhara and the other for Pauline Flett, a Spokane tribal member who worked for decades to preserve the Salish language.

Denny Yasuhara taught in Spokane Public Schools for 30 years. But he was also an activist who worked for civil rights causes and advocated for reparations for Japanese Americans who were forced into internment camps.

Yasuhara’s widow, his friends, and the first class of students celebrated during a ceremony Tuesday morning.

Dean Nakagawa, president of the Hifumi Society, says he hopes students walking through the halls of their new school learn from its namesake’s legacy.

“He’d be very humbled,” he said. “This was not something that he wanted, but we’re proud of him, and we hope that he’s a good inspiration for all kids going to school, to be the best they can be.”

Flett Middle School also opened its doors to its first students Tuesday. That school is named for Pauline Flett, who preserved and taught Spokane Salish. Many tribal members lost their connection to their language and culture after they were separated from their families or sent to boarding school. Flett’s work helped future generations reconnect to Salish.

A third middle school is opening next year, Peperzak Middle School, named for holocaust survivor Carla Peperzak.