NEWARK - Hilda Asante-Nyame was so disappointed that she did not get into her first or second choice colleges — University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins University — that she created a TikTok video to Orianthi's snarky hit “According to You,” chastising the schools for rejecting her.
Then her TikTok reveals that she is headed to Wesleyan University where she is considered “beautiful and incredible.”
Social media is now how North Star Academy seniors are declaring where they are going to college, a big change from the Newark school's typical Senior Signing Day, a raucous affair in a massive gym where each graduating senior struts on a stage to their favorite song to announce the college they are not only attending, but will be graduating from in four years.
COVID-19 restrictions changed all that, and North Star Academy will now celebrate with a series of video reveals on Youtube according to this 27-second promo video.
The virtual event starts at 5 p.m. Thursday and organizers hope it will have all the excitement and drama that has become a hallmark of a live senior signing day.
"This is one of the most anticipated events we hold all year for our seniors," said Michael Mann, the head of school for Washington Park High School, one of North Star’s two high schools. "We worked within the constraints we had to continue this longstanding tradition and created an event to recognize the many accomplishments of our amazing Class of 2020. It’s going to be a celebration of the children of Newark and I invite all residents to watch it.”
North Star Academy, a part of Uncommon Schools, first opened in Newark in 1997, starting with a fifth grade class. It has expanded over the years and now educates more than 5,000 students in 14 schools located throughout the Central, South and West wards of the city.
North Star Academy was recently ranked by the Challenge Index among the top 1% of high schools in the nation. The Challenge Index, which was created in 1998 and has been published in both The Washington Post and Newsweek, is the oldest ranking system in the nation.
The Challenge Index is the only list that does not rely on test scores, but instead on the number of students who take more rigorous, college-level Advanced Placement courses. The vast majority of students at North Star Academy are encouraged to take AP classes, and many take multiple, school officials say.
From the moment students enter the school as kindergarteners, they are imbued with the idea that their education will continue after high school. In elementary school, each classroom is named after a different college or university, usually the one attended by their teacher.
During their senior year, students are encouraged to aim high when applying to colleges and many of them are accepted, with full scholarships.
Asante-Nyame is part of the first graduating class of North Star Academy’s Lincoln Park High School, North Star’s second high school in Newark.
“Being surrounded by people who care so much about me, they were so supportive and told me that regardless of what school I went to I’d still achieve my goals and get the career that I’m aiming for," said Asante-Nyame, who now believes that Wesleyan is the best fit for her after all. "Whether you’re rejected or declined, there’s always a place for you to go."
While Asante-Nyame's senior year didn't turn out the way she planned, she sees a ray of sunshine in the experience that forced students to study remotely since Governor Phil Murphy closed schools in New Jersey in mid March.
Asante-Nyame said her school was well prepared and helped students make the transition to online education so that almost no learning was lost. She believes the experience of remote learning helped to prepare her for the independence of college.
“That’s what’s going to happen in college, no one’s going to tell me to do my work." Asante-Nyame said. "For students who are about to become college freshmen, it was good practice and taught us not to sit on our phones or computers all day."