Harvard-bound grad reflects positive changes in Newark Public Schools

By: Elana Knopp | www.tapinto.net

Lucia Couto
Lucia Couto

Cambridge, Massachusetts, is known for its cool arts scene, historic architecture and top colleges, but as much as Lucia Couto loves the scenic city that sits on the banks of the Charles River, she hopes for the opportunity to one day return home to Newark.

Couto, who recently graduated from Newark’s Arts High School and will be attending Harvard University on a full scholarship this fall, says that she wants to give back to the city that helped her prosper.

And prosper she did.

Couto, who is the valedictorian of her graduating class and will be pursuing medical physics at Harvard, grew up in Newark’s North Ward, the daughter of parents–both from Portugal–who never had the opportunity to pursue their own educational aspirations but who pushed their children to aim for the top.

“My mother always tells us the story of how she wished to go to school every single year,” said Couto, who attended First Avenue Elementary school. “She wanted to learn, wanted to be in an environment where someone could show her something she did not know yesterday. She only got to complete one year in elementary school and because of this, she would never let us give anything less than the absolute best we could produce. To my parents, messing around in school was something that would really disappoint them, which is not something that my siblings and I ever wanted to do.”

Couto is one of seven graduates from Newark Public Schools this year who will be attending Ivy League schools on a full scholarship. More than 75 percent of NPS seniors will be attending two or four year colleges or universities. In addition, 71 students will be graduating from high school with Associate’s degrees.

In 2016, Newark’s high school graduation rate increased to 73.5 percent, up four percentage points from 2015, according to data released by the New Jersey Department of Education. The data also shows that there has been a steady increase in graduation rates for four consecutive years, up 15 percentage points since 2011.

Early projections show that NPS will once again increase its high school graduation rate this year.

Newark Public Schools Superintendent Christopher Cerf said Couto represents the many success stories of Newark school students.

“Our school community is so proud of the accomplishments of our seniors and wishes each of them success as they continue to advance toward their college, career, and life goals,” Cerf said. “As we celebrate our graduates’ achievements, I would also like to thank their committed parents and families, along with our teachers and community members who are so instrumental in supporting and shaping them into the brilliant young men and women they are today.”

To those who view Newark in a negative light, Couto responds with citing the many successes that Newark has helped create.

“I would say that there are a lot of different people and things–amazing things–that come out of my city,” she said. “I feel like society has made us so aware of the negatives that people sometimes only focus on the negative things that they hear. They don’t realize how many truly amazing people have come from the same schools as me.”

Couto said she is optimistic that the city’s reputation will soon come to an end.

“The reputation about the strong people and hard workers that make up this city, will soon come to light,” she said.

Throughout her school years, Couto stood out as a leader, an accomplished athlete and dancer and as a member of the National Honor Society.

At Arts High School, Couto was a peer leader to incoming freshmen, the captain of both the soccer and volleyball teams, and has acted as something of an ambassador to her school.

“One thing that my siblings and I were instilled with was the idea that there was a possibility to learn in every moment of every day, whether it be in class or in a practical situation, which is something we are extremely grateful for,” Couto said. “It means the world to me that despite not having the full experience for themselves, my parents pushed my siblings and I as far as we could go.”

Couto says that the diversity at Arts High School helped her learn some lifelong lessons.

“The most valuable lesson I learned from attending a school as diverse as my class at Arts High School was to understand that different circumstances lead to very different viewpoints from different people, and while some people believe that there is a right answer to everything, everything should be considered through multiple perspectives before arriving at a conclusion,” she said.

Though she is entering the STEM field, which is fact-based, she said she always loved the Socratic Seminars.

“It really shows you that one thing can be interpreted so many different ways and you understand something so much more when you can take a step back and look at it from every angle possible,” Couto said.

“Being able to go to a school where that diversity of opinion existed helped me to have such a better understanding of not only the topics that we were studying, but also how people understand and feel about what is happening today in 2017.”

Ricardo Pedro, principal at Arts High School said he noticed Couto’s talent, leadership skills and discipline from the beginning.

“From Day One, Lucia exhibited leadership amongst her peers,” Pedro said. “As a dancer, Lucia’s teacher noticed she had the discipline to follow direction. She has a strong personality and she is very much a leader, very much of an ambassador. She will be an ambassador and leader wherever she goes.”

Arts High School Vice Principal Diane Delrusso chalks up Couto’s success to one standout quality.

“She has grit,” Delrusso said. “She just has it. She’s determined to succeed. She’s always smiling, always positive and always comfortable with herself. She was an exemplar student in the classroom; it’s just amazing how she applies herself. She’s a perfectionist.”

Arts High School Vice Principal Antonio Lopes recalls Couto as a high achiever who handled her rigorous academic workload with discipline and equanimity.

“In her senior year, she had four AP classes,” Lopes said. “She was one of those kids who could handle it. We need more Lucias.”

Couto said the city she calls home has had a major impact on the person she has become.

“I was born and raised in a city that, to most people, was a city with a very negative reputation,” Couto says. “It was this preconceived notion of my home that helped shape the person I have become. The city made me a strong fighter, a person who would go down kicking and screaming, and would do everything she could to prove that the reputation that preceded her city was not a reputation that would continue long.”

Couto, who arrived in Cambridge just days ago, says that although she is having a great time in her new college city, there is still no place like home.

“I do believe that, if the opportunity presents itself and I would be able to return to Newark once I complete school, I would definitely take it for a few reasons,” she said. “Newark has been my home for my entire life, and if I had the opportunity to give back to the community that helped make me me, which I fully intend to do, I would love the chance to go back, be close to all of my family and friends, and helped the city that helped me prosper.”

The Intent to Succeed; Newark Arts High School Student Signs to Join Caldwell University New Football Program

PHOTO: (left to right) Lashana Thomas (Mother), Principal Ricardo Pedro, Lamont Rouse, Akeem Bowman (Uncle)

A letter of intent to join the newly formed Caldwell University ‘sprint football’ program has a Newark Arts High School student anxious for the opportunity that he’s been waiting for a long time.

Wednesday afternoon’s signing ceremony was held in the school’s atrium where an emotional 18-year-old Lamont Rouse signed the letter of intent in front of several dozen of his fellow students, staff members, and his parents.

The 5’5″ tall 145 pound running back and linebacker who played several years for Central High School in Newark gave credit to the school’s football coach Mr. Julius Mumford who Rouse called a role model and father figure.

“Coach Mumford is a great man and has always pushed me to perform my best,” Rouse said.

Rouse was faced with one of his most difficult challenges when he received notification that his father was gunned down on a Newark street in the early morning hours of July 4, 2016.

“I was devastated and emotionally destroyed on that day because it took me by surprise believing that someone would want to harm the man that I looked up to the most,” Rouse said.

Rouse blamed the same sadness and uncertainty on why he made the decision to leave the Central High School program at the end of his junior year and suit up to play football at Barringer High School in the city’s North Ward for his final season.

“I let my feelings get the best of me but have learned from my supportive Arts High School family that they will always be here to support me, assistant,” Rouse said.

Arts High School Principal Mr. Ricardo Pedro attended the signing in ceremony and shared his continued support for Rouse and all his endeavors.

“Lamont has been in this building since 6th grade and has made us proud”, Principal Pedro said during the ceremony.

“This is what our entire Arts High School staff work so hard for daily to see our kids succeed in life. As with all of our students, I am extremely proud of Lamont and his chance at a college education while he pursues his dream of playing football” Principal Pedro said.

Caldwell University is a private, Catholic coed four-year university with a strong liberal arts core curriculum that enhances critical thinking and analytical reasoning. Caldwell offers 25 undergraduate and 30 graduate programs, including doctoral, master’s, certificate and certification programs, as well as online and distance learning options that prepare students for today’s global marketplace.

According to Assistant Vice President/Director of Athletics Mark A. Corino, the university is very pleased and excited to have hired Daryle Weiss as their first head coach to lead our sprint football program.

“Weiss brings over 20 years of teaching and coaching experience on the collegiate and high school levels. His experience ranges from Montclair Immaculate Conception as the freshman head coach to offensive/defensive line coordinator at Pope John XXIII” Carino said.

Sprint football is a full-contact, intercollegiate, varsity sport and has the same rules as regular college football, except that all players must weigh 172 pounds or less. The league has existed since before World War II.

Rouse credits his successful journey to his mother Lashana Thomas, uncle Akeem Bowman, aunt Haiesha Senior, Principal Pedro and the entire Arts High School family and his friends who have supported him.

“I want to come back to Newark someday and open a business. I want to give back to Newark because God has blessed me to to get to this point in my life. I did what a lot of people didn’t think I could do” Rouse concluded.

Congratulations from all of us here at RLS Metro Breaking News morning crew.

View the story on rlsmedia.com.

Science Park High School Teams Win Calculus and Statistics Contests in 2014 NPS Math Olympics

ScienceParkMathOlympicsApril2014Newark Public Schools high school math students again pitted their skills against each other in this year’s Calculus and Statistics competitions, which are the first events of the district’s annual Math Olympics. Science Park High School students scored highest in both contests, taking home the trophy as well as medals and electronic calculators.In the Calculus event, East Side was second and University third. Bard came in second in the Statistics event. Other participating schools were American History, Arts, Central and Technology.

The aim of the district’s Math Olympics is to inspire students to improve their math knowledge and skills while competing against their peers. The Math Olympics, which is organized by the Newark Association of Math Educators (NAME) in collaboration with other teachers, continues in the next few weeks with students in younger grades competing.

NY Yankee Legend & Latin Grammy-Nominated Bernie Williams Onstage with NPS Jazz House Kids Music Club Students

As part of the annual Jazz House Kids Music Club and Vocal Summit Student Showcase, students from eight Newark Public Schools participated in a special workshop and concert with celebrated former Yankee All-Star and Latin GRAMMY nominee jazz guitarist Bernie Williams on Wednesday, April 23 at Science Park High School. Participating schools included: John F. Kennedy, Oliver Street, Science Park High, Abington Avenue, Maple Avenue, Rafael Hernandez and Arts High School.

As audience to an on-stage interview conducted by Melissa Walker, president and founder of Jazz House Kids, students had a chance to hear about Williams’ work and how he balanced his musical passions with his sports career. He credits his passion for music as a key to opening up his personal potential in both pursuits. A native of Puerto Rico, Williams discovered baseball and music at roughly the same time, when at the age of eight he fell in love with the sounds of a flamenco guitar, and also felt exhilaration when he first picked up a baseball bat. The young student-athlete quickly excelled in both pursuits, going on to attend the special performance arts school Escuela Libre de Musica at age 13 and becoming one of the most noted young athletes on the island, both as a track and field standout and one of Puerto Rico’s most sought after young baseball prospects. When Williams signed a contract with the New York Yankees at age 17, he brought his love of music with him – first to Albany for his development in double-A ball and then on to the Bronx and the most famous field in sports when called up to join the Yankees in 1991.

Williams’ story clearly resonated with NPS students, who had the opportunity to ask him questions after Walker finished her chat. After photos and a meet and greet, the ball player/musician joined students and teachers on the stage for a moving and memorable performance.

“We are thrilled that Bernie Williams, a man whose accomplishments bridge the world of sports and music, donated his time to speak with and connect to young music students in our Newark Public Schools music programs” Walker said. “Mr. Williams is an inspiration to young people, and his support of Jazz House Kids’ mission is so encouraging – his personal dedication to obtaining a college education tells two key stories: no award or sum of money can take the place of one’s education and we are never too old to learn. We at Jazz House Kids salute that message and work toward that end each and everyday through the medium of jazz – it is incredibly exciting that Mr. Williams stood on stage with over 100 music students from Newark Public Schools.”

For more than 13 years, Jazz House Kids has provided programming in the Newark Public School District, working with more than 12,000 young people K-12 and hundreds of teachers and administrators to offer music, mentorship and apprenticeship. The 2013-2014 Jazz House Music Club and Vocal Summit Jazz Residency programs currently serve more than 300 students in nine Newark Schools with year-long instrumental and vocal programming. These programs are provided free of charge to all of the participating students and are funded by the Iverson Family Foundation, Don Katz and Leslie Larson, The Prudential Foundation, Rivendell Foundation, The Silver Family Foundation, Turrell Fund, Victoria Foundation and support from our partnering schools.