PATERSON, NJ - The halls of Rosa L. Parks High School of Fine and Performing Arts filled with the enthusiasm of students and faculty on February 27. The big day had arrived, Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver,  Secretary of State Tahesha Way, and Secretary of Higher Education Dr. Zakiya Smith Ellis joined together for a panel discussion, hosted and moderated by Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly. Special guests also included Superintendent of Schools Eileen F. Shafer and Mayor Andre Sayegh.

This year’s celebration theme was “remember from whence you came, this far and further,” with each of the three special guests sharing their personal journeys and speaking about local issues impacting students.

“Rosa Parks isn´t just a great school in Paterson, but it’s one of the better schools in the country and the perfect place to host an event like this,” Wimberly told the those gathered, sharing how thrilled he was to be able to host it.

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Oliver addressed student questions and spoke about her own path to success, advising students to cherish their time in school. “Love your educational journey. Love it, embrace it, you’ll never get it back again, enjoy every moment of it,” she suggested.

“Be present, understand who you are, always take what others have done for you in your walk in life. Show your value and give others your voice,” Way told students while also imploring them to remember their ancestry.

Also keeping to the theme was Ellis who reminded students to “remember where you came from and always take that with you,” encouraging them to seek higher education.

“Your education is your power,” Ellis said.

In addition to the the panel discussion two Rosa Parks’ students were recognized with awards.  Senior Taniesha Gilbert, who exhibited outstand academic success and scored over 1,000 points for the Kennedy Lady Knights and senior Khadija Moody, recently named as a finalist for the Prudential Spirit of Community Award for her volunteer service both took to the stage and received plaques.

Speaking to TAPinto Paterson at a Board of Education meeting a few days after the event, and asked if the volunteer efforts or studies have cut into her social life, Moody,  who has also been a standout athlete in volleyball, basketball, and track, said that it was just a matter of balancing her time.

Her advice to fellow students: Work hard from the beginning.


Jennifer Guizar is a junior at Rosa Park High School of Fine and Performing Arts and a member of the TAPinto Paterson internship program.


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