Newark, NJ—Mayor Ras J. Baraka will give the commencement speech at the eighth-grade graduation for University Heights Charter School.

The graduation ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. on June 20 at University Heights Charter School’s Junior High School at 111 7th Avenue in Newark.

“We are honored that Mayor Baraka has agreed to give the welcoming remarks at our 8th grade graduation. As an educator and parent, Mayor Baraka is keenly aware of the importance of a quality Pre K-8th grade education and the impact that it can have on our students’ futures,” said Tamara Cooper, the executive director of University Heights Charter School.

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“The mission of University Heights Charter School embodies this premise and we strive to provide our students with the tools and the skills that they will need to succeed in high school and beyond,” Cooper said.

According to University Heights Charter School officials, Baraka is a welcomed speaker because he has severed as an educator, a politician and is a published author. Prior to becoming mayor in 2014, Baraka was critical of charter schools, but has since moderated his position, joining a pro-charter group to help elect a slate for the Newark Board of Education that included pro-charter candidates.

However, as recently as March, he told Chalkbeat Newark that the city had enough charter schools. “Whatever they have approved — that’s it,” said Baraka, who recently won re-election to a second term. “They shouldn’t go anymore until this is thought out.”

University Heights Charter School has been operating in the city of Newark for more than a decade. The school’s mission is to develop each student in grades PreK-8, “the character, scholarship, and leadership necessary for success in life, college, and community.”

University Heights Charter School officials state the school’s community is built upon six REACH core virtues: Respect everyone; Excellence every time; Accountability for all actions; Caring to create community; and Honesty in all our words.  University Heights Charter School currently serves 873 students in Pre K – 8th grade.