The United States of America is a land of immigrants, and nowhere is it more evident than in Millbrook’s own cafeteria, where our school has flags displayed to represent the diversity of the staff and student body.
Vice Principal Mr. Hawkins was first given the idea of displaying flags in the cafeteria from Assistant Principal Mr. Liero and he began hanging the flags in 2011. “[Mr. Liero] had been to some schools in Loudoun County for a sporting event, and they had it down there. He brought the idea back to a school improvement team meeting,” Mr. Hawkins said. “I worked with facility services to get the boards up there to hang the flag poles.” He said that he and Mr. Luttrell, the head custodian, work together to put up the flags every year around three weeks into the school year and take them down in the summer. However, when a new student transfers into Millbrook or a new teacher is hired in the middle of the year, he will rearrange the flags depending on the name of the country from which that student or teacher is from due to flag display protocol.
Flag display protocol dictates that when the US flag is flown with other countries, it must be flown on the left with every other country following it in alphabetical order, all on equal height. Mr. Hawkins explained, “If somebody comes from Zimbabwe, that’s an easy fix, because I just go to the end [and hang the Zimbabwe flag]; but if someone comes from Afghanistan, then I have to move every one to keep it in alphabetical order.” He said that it is often difficult to find the correct order for the flags due to how some countries have several different names or have a ranking attached to its name, such as Congo or the Republic of the Congo. To remedy this, he uses to United Nation’s website and uses the name the country as listed there. Several countries are also designated as territories, such as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, which are represented by the countries that own them, so their flags would be the United States and Great Britain flags, respectively.
The flags that are displayed each year represent the origins of the current students and teachers of Millbrook, the former of which are automatically provided when entering and the latter is not so easily gained. He is not allowed to officially ask an applicant what country they were born in during a job interview, but Mr. Hawkins will ask them when they are hired, off the record. He said that he asks the hired employee, “Were you born in the United States?… If you’re willing to tell me where you were born I can make sure we have a flag up there for you.” The flags also do not count for heritage or ethnicity, only the country where one was born. Mr. Hawkins explained, “If you were born in the United States, the US flag is for you. If you were born in Mexico, the Mexican flag is for you. If your family is from Mexico but you were born in Winchester Medical Center, the US flag is yours.”
Mr. Hawkins described the project as an “activity to support cultural awareness.” He noted that among the twenty-four flags currently flown in the cafeteria is a flag for North Korea, where, he said, “very few people leave that country.” He explained, “As people look at it, they identify with their own [country], but they see all the places where all the people of Millbrook High School really came from.” He added, “If nothing else, it provides a good bit of color in the commons area.”