Newark, NJ—The students of People’s Preparatory Charter School celebrated and announced their college choices Wednesday and many gained awards for their personal successes.
At the event at Rutgers-Newark Robeson Campus Center, school staff told stories of students doubling up on classes as needed, a cellist heading to Penn State, students advocating for themselves, artists emerging, and several students who will attend top-tier universities. One student received a full ride to Rensselear Polytechnic Institute. Another decided to join the Air Force.
People’s Prep, located on Bergen Street and founded in 2011, aims to prepare all students “to graduate from the college of their choice as informed, involved, and resilient citizens.”
The tables were adorned with yellow glitter 2022 centerpieces to represent the year the students would graduate college and the students, family, and faculty dressed to the nines created the appearance of an intellectual prom.
Graduating student Thomas Turner applied to nine schools and ultimately decided on the College of Saint Elizabeth. He told TAPInto Newark he intends to study computer or software engineering.
Turner, 18, spoke fondly of People’s Prep and told TAPInto Newark, “This school will help you. It will take you further and open up more opportunities.”
Turner added gratitude that school employees and advisors will continue to help him throughout college. He said he is excited to start his future and spent time searching for summer coding classes to take.
“This school has really been a perfect match for my son,” said Toy Muhammad, Turner’s mother. “They follow you all the way to college, including writing acceptance letters, filling out a FAFSA, personal essays.”
Brent Weber, an 11th grade English teacher at the school and member of leadership team tasked with coaching other teachers, said the after-school additional support help make a difference for students.
“What makes us different is how hands-on we are,” Weber told TAPInto Newark. Weber explained that the students are broken up into councils that meet daily like a homeroom and “might focus on applying to college, conflict resolution, and sometimes just bonding like playing video games.”
Samuel Sylvester, 18, received the school’s award for “Being a resilient citizen” meaning he faced significant challenges yet never wavered from reaching his goal of transitioning to college because character and persistence only made him stronger.
“College acceptance night allows students to feel proud of the accomplishments they have made, and accomplishments they will make in the future,” Sylvester told TAPInto Newark.
Jessica Rooney, co-director and founder of the school, said this year’s class is the school’s fourth graduating class ever making it the first class where freshmen graduated as seniors. Rooney said the school serves 100 percent students of color, more than 90 percent are free or reduced lunch eligible, 25 percent of students have disabilities and roughly 85 percent of each graduating class attends college, she said.
“We are proud to work with students from diverse backgrounds,” Rooney told TAPInto Newark, adding that students come to People’s Prep from more than 30 middle schools.
Keith Robinson, co-director of the school, explained that People’s Prep is part of the universal enrollment system in which parents can list it as one of the top eight choices they want for their child. There is no test or tuition required. Robinson said there is a class called futures at the school that focuses on skills like budgeting, basic information about college and preparation for ACT/SAT.
Robinson noted the focus on providing art, music, research and creative projects to all the school’s students.
“It opens up an opportunity to make them more rounded students and people,” Robinson said.
The school is mostly funded by the state, however, grants are applied for and used especially for the assistance provided to students after they move onto college.
“We commit to serving students for six years after graduation,” said Robinson, adding no public money is used for that purpose.
“This is a particularly enthusiastic group,” Robinson of the graduating class.
Director of Student Support Alison Laycock Ruiz closed the ceremony after the awards, the announcement of college choices, speeches, a student video, and dinner.
“Class of 2022 we are here to celebrate the choices you’ve made,” she said. “We’re proud of you.”