When Naomi Peña Villasano asked the federal courts to allow her Mexican and American flag sash to be worn at graduation, they said no, but she did it anyway.
“Always stand up for what you believe in,” said Grand Valley High School graduate Naomi Peña Villasano told the Post Independent of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. “Just like my senior quote.”
The Post Independent reports that Peña Villasano and others visited Denver legislators and Gov. Jared Polis on changing the policy to allow for national regalia to be worn at graduation. Board president Lynn Shore commented on the matter in a press release Friday.
“This district believes there is not adequate time to properly consider changes to its rules and traditions before graduation, so the current rules and traditions will be in effect and fully enforced,” she said. “Because the issues raised have merit and it is past time to review the rules and traditions, these will be reviewed during the 2023/24 school year.”
While Peña Villasano proudly wore her flags for graduation, this is only the beginning of her fight — she recently filed a lawsuit against Garfield 16 for violating her rights to Freedom of Speech. However, the day before graduation, her request was denied by U.S. District Court Judge Nina Y. Wang because Peña Villasano was allowed to decorate her cap but not include the sash according to the Grand Valley High School’s graduation policy.
The board didn’t block her from graduating but her efforts weren’t widely accepted from other members of her class. According to The Sun around 25 other graduates with Hispanic last names didn’t support her decision. There are a few others who received high achievements that weren’t allowed to showcase it either.
“I think it’s unfair that she can sit there and make a huge scene that affects everyone else,” fellow graduate Tiara Walker told the Colorado Sun. Walkers, boyfriend had created a lei for her to wear, but according to policy she wasn’t allowed to. “Was very disappointing to me.”
The Sun reports thats graduate “Molly Rhinaman was given a gold sash from Colorado Mountain College for completing college courses while still attending high school.”
“I am the only one in the class with a CMC degree and I didn’t get to show that,” she told the outlet. “I also put in 230 volunteer hours with 4-H and I couldn’t wear the cords for that.”
While Peña Villasano continues her fight amid backlash from some classmates, she still finds a space to celebrate in her heritage and becoming a graduate.
“I am not just fighting for this for myself and for the Mexican culture,” Peña Villasano told the Sun. “I want everyone else to be able to freely express their pride in their culture.”