David Heredia is Animator-in-Residence for Innovation Week

Mr. Heredia, award-winning animator and "Heroes of Color" creator, inspired students through workshops and assemblies.
Our return from Winter Break kicked off with Innovation Week, a week filled with celebrating all things inventive and imaginative. Our students spent time exploring everything from a rapid prototyping challenge to underscoring the stories of some trailblazing women in STEAM. One of the most impactful highlights of the week came through the launch of our Animator-In-Residence workshops, guided by award-winning animator and creator of the “Heroes of Color” series, David Heredia.
A hero of color in his own right, Mr. Heredia kicked off his residency with an opening address to both Lower and Upper School students during our Wednesday assemblies. He shared how the combined power of education, courage, and pride in his identity motivated him to pursue his passion as an animator and educator. Immediately following the assemblies, Mr. Heredia led our Lower School students through digital design and animation workshops, including walking them through the process of creating a superhero and developing comic books.

Following his residency, Mr. Heredia was interviewed by Ericka Dean, Director of Marketing and Communications. He was thrilled to share more about his journey to becoming an animator and creating the “Heroes of Color” series.

Here are some excerpted questions and answers from that interview:

When did you know you had a passion for art?
Growing up, English was my second language, but I had an art teacher who took an interest in me, and even though we didn’t understand each other, we connected through art, and it was then that I realized it was a real passion of mine. Honestly, teachers were my first heroes.

What motivated you to create the “Heroes of Color” series?
I am originally from New York, but all of my experiences out here [in Los Angeles] helped give birth to “Heroes of Color,” specifically an experience I had with my daughter. In Kindergarten, somebody said a racial slur to her, another Kindergartener. It happened again in the third grade, so a lot of the work that I do has been because of the experiences that I’ve had living here in California.

When I do my work, all of my children are around me, and they are looking at the work I am doing and asking me about the characters I am creating, and I always remind them that their teacher is there for them. So, if you’re only learning about European history, or European heroes, or European people, you have the right to raise your hand and tell them, “Hey, how about we learn more about somebody who looks like me.” Well, my daughter was given an assignment called “Highlighting an American Hero,” and they had to do a speech on an American hero, so they were given a list of people to choose from, and everybody on the list was white. My daughter raised her hand and said, “I don’t see any people of color from this list, so I’m going to pick a hero of my own who looks like me.” I thought that was amazing, but what was more amazing was half of the classroom reacted to what she said and said, “Hey, I want to do that too!”

What was one of the most significant takeaways from the time you spent at Mirman?
I get excited when I see schools like yours trying to get the message out there and giving students the tools and confidence to tell their own story.

To learn more about David Heredia and the “Heroes of Color” series, click here.
A Horse With No Name No More
from the 2018-2019 Meridian 

After the school rebranded a few years ago, Athletic Director Angela Brown felt that something was missing. While new uniforms were donned for the first day of school, new signs were hung around campus, and a new website launched to accompany refreshed marketing materials, the font-forward design left something to be desired when it came to truly raising team spirit to the power of Mirman. 

In a school where more than half of the student body participates in some form of competitive athletics, and on a campus where a significant expansion created pristine courts and fields upon which one can cheer on several teams on any given day, Brown saw opportunity and sensed desire to elevate the program. After working with Jenn Salcido, Director of Marketing and Communications, and Noah Kaufman, Director of Advancement, the school’s branding was expanded to include a strong, confident (though K-8-appropriate) steed. New universal uniforms, sweatsuits, and swag followed suit. 

“It’s a truly exciting time for athletics at Mirman,” said Brown. “It’s a sense of pride that you can see and feel. It’s almost like we’ve arrived. You could have taken a snapshot of the students in their old uniforms, and then with their new ones with the names on the back. It’s a rallying cry. You can see the pride on their faces.”  

Finally, everyone could don uniforms featuring their own names writ large. Everyone except, of course, the horse. Everyone knew we had a mascot — you’d see the nameless Mustang trotted out for the occasional assembly or championship bout — but nobody really knew the mascot. 

What if the community could help change that? 

Last fall, Brown and her colleagues in the Physical Education department introduced a contest at an all-school assembly. The objective: not only to name the Mustang, but to tell the mascot’s story. Over the course of a 6-day cycle, ballots were collected from every grade level in both divisions. With Salcido’s help, Brown and Assistant to the Athletic Director Alyssa Woods tallied the results. 

The judges carefully considered the entries, assessing them on an unwritten rubric including points for overall catchiness, gender-neutrality, universal appeal, and other considerations. As the dust settled, one clear winner emerged: Rider. In retrospect, it seemed rather obvious. The school had only recently unveiled its Core Values (Responsibility, Integrity, Discovery, Empathy, and Resilience). And as equine monikers go, Rider makes a certain degree of sense. The name was revealed with much aplomb at an all-school assembly, with Rider trotting out on stage to show off a newly-minted personalized jersey. 

The winning entry belonged to Room 4L students Victoria A. and Amelie S., who soon revealed that they had a little help from their friends, specifically former Room 4L co-teacher and current Librarian Allison Sparks. 

“We had just had a community circle in class talking about the Core Values,” said Sparks. “This was something new to me as a new member of the Mirman community. When I asked the class out loud if they’d considered Rider for the Mustang name, a few of the students wanted to suggest it.” 

“I laughed it off and dismissed the idea,” Sparks admitted. “I thought that since it had come from an adult, it wouldn’t count. But when I saw how excited they were when they submitted it, I knew the name rang true. It really came out of an ‘a ha’ moment we had together as a class. 

“It relates so much to our school and Core Values and helps us make sure we’re always doing the right thing,” said Victoria A. of the new name. 

“It’s amazing to be part of our school history,” added Amelie S. 

The two girls, who themselves represent Mirman on the basketball court and soccer fields as part of the Room 4 teams, admitted that, like many great ideas, their first iteration didn’t ring quite as true. “I think we wanted to do mustard,” said Victoria. 

“Or mayonnaise,” said Amelie. 

As it turns out, most things do get better with teamwork. 

Like any ballot box, this one was not without its curiosities once opened up. Here were a few of the voting trends: 
  • More than a few students wanted to name the Mustang after themselves or their classmates 
  • One entry suggested “Vegan” 
  • “Uncle Grandpa” popped up more than a few times, much to the confusion of one judge. It was revealed upon further investigation that this is in fact an affectionate nickname for Coach Allen Foster. 
  • Regarding “The Mysterious Moose:” decidedly not a horse, but good alliteration. 

A Biography of Rider 
By Victoria A. and Amelie S., Room 4L 
(with editorial assistance from an anonymous magazine editor) 
Once upon a time, a beautiful horse was born. He* shook himself and stood up, curious about the world around him. He began to walk through the forest, stopping every so often to grab some fruit from a tree. After a while, he came upon a group of two little girls and their teacher walking through the woods.

“Hi horse! What’s your name?” the little girl asked. 

“I don’t have a name, actually. What’s yours?” the horse answered. 

“Woah, I can actually understand you,” said the little girl. “That’s so cool!” 

The girls and their teacher spoke with the horse a while longer, introducing themselves and getting to know each other. They wondered aloud why the horse didn’t have a name. 

“I just haven’t thought of one yet,” he said. “I’ve only just been born!” 

The trio brainstormed about names for a while, but then got sidetracked with what they all wanted to be when they grew up. “Do you have any ideas,” asked the teacher?” 

“I want to be a head of school!” one of the girls said. “And my school will need to have Core Values, but I don’t know what those should be.” 

“Maybe I can help you,” volunteered the horse. 

“You need to have responsibility,” began the teacher. “And integrity.” 

“And empathy for other horses!” said the horse. 

“We’ll need to discover things along the way!” said the other girl. 

“And you’ll need some resilience,” the horse finished. 

Suddenly, the trio and the horse looked at one another. “How would you feel if we called you Rider in honor of those core values?” asked the teacher. 

By now, you know how this story ends — happily ever after, surrounded by the cheering crowds. 

*while Rider is a male horse in this story, we know from his biographers that he really can be any gender! Everyone can and should be able to identify with Rider. 
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