Wednesday, January 17, 2018


A Basketball Story

By: Dominique Joseph

Since this is my last year playing high school ball I wanted to take a minute and look back ...

In middle school, I was always the best player on my team. When I came to highschool, I was so confident that I would still be. On the first day of practice, I saw that there were girls who were better and far more experienced than I was.

I spent most of my freshman season on the bench which really discouraged me and made me feel like I was less of a player. I used to go extra hard in practice just to prove my point which I never got across, it was like the coaches were looking over me.

Sophomore year, I took time away from basketball to just focus on myself and gain a better mindset. Of course hearing how good the team was doing made me wish I played, but I had more important things to worry about. My grades increased tremendously and I was at my highest point in life.

The summer going into my junior year, I met the new coaching staff and my new teammates. We spent most of that summer together going to camps and playing in summer leagues which really made us grow closer to each other, I knew that this would be a great season. When the actual season started, I gained a starting position and I was so excited and anxious to play.

We went on a 9-game winning streak until we faced our rivals, Newark Tech. I hit a 3-point shot that forced us into over-time. Unfortunately, we were defeated. I couldn’t let this loss bring me down though-- it was a wake up call. 

I continued to struggle trying to prove myself and I carried a lot of doubt. I started to feel like I just wasn’t good enough and basketball just wasn’t my thing. Luckily, I had teammates who brought me up when I got down on myself and always reminded me that I was needed.
That season we went on to win a sectional championship against Secaucus High School ,which brought excitement to our team and the entire school. For the first time in my life, I felt like a winner and I was overwhelmed with joy.

We had an even bigger game ahead of us, the Group 1 State Championship, against Bound Brook. We went on to lose that game. Man we were distraught -- an even bigger wake up call.
Now, it's senior year.  I had competition so the only thing on my mind was to go harder than last year.  I started for the first 4 games and after that, I didn’t start anymore.

Getting my starting spot taken from me not only made me feel that I had to change something, but brought my self esteem back down. This made me feel so bad about myself and was the worst thing ever. 

But maybe this is what is best for the team. I am not a selfish player and I will do whatever it takes for us to win. Now, our record is 11-1.
 I predict that we can win every game from here on out and be state champions. In the end I'm cool with however far we get as long as I know I gave it my all-- I will be able to hang up my Lady Phoenix jersey with my head held high! 

Teacher Spotlight: Ms. Stacy Coppola

Photo: Majid Johnson 

Mrs. Coppola, Making History "Cool" Again

by, Majid Johnson

Mrs. Coppola is the best teacher at University High School. Relax folks this is just my opinion. Now, I say this because she has steadily been my teacher since freshman year. Partly because I always made sure she was my history teacher. If my schedule didn’t have her on it I got it changed immediately. Every year. (Don't tell anyone.)

She just has a creative way of teaching that always keeps me focused. Even when I didn’t feel like it, she always gets me to do work.

Ms. Coppola is my favorite teacher because we used to do a lot of discussions in her class that would enable me to understand the work completely. So in her class I never get lower than a 85%. I also find Coppola funny as hell humorous. Since my first year at University I would always find her jokes hilarious. Ms. Coppola is also generous to her students & cares about us. I say this because she actually lets us make up work for a better grade. I know that she doesn’t have to do but she does. She even puts in an extra grade if I ask for it, if my grade is close to and A-(88 or 89). Don't try this-- she only does this for me.

I also always put my juice in Coppola’s fridge everyday, even if she’s not there. It’s just became my routine that I’m used to. Most teachers won't let you do that but Coppola is cool so she understands that we need to stay hydrated too.

This year I have Coppola in the middle of the day, so once I leave her class the day feels like it’s over. I'm always excited to get into her class after Rampton (Gym Teacher). The only problem I ever give Coppola is me being on my phone, and I actually stopped being on my phone in her class because I know she hates that.

She gives me a certain look every time she catches me -- it reminds me of my mother. Or she’ll say out loud, “Hold on class let’s wait for Majid to finish texting.” and that makes me laugh overtime. So I put my phone away.

For this and so much more, Coppola is my favorite teacher and I felt she needed to be included in the Teacher Spotlight.

Alumni Spotlight: Lydelle King

      Following Your Passion:
            From Football Player to ESPN Sports Producer

                                                                                                                By Ty-Saiah Moss
Photo: Courtesy 

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing University High School Alumnus, Emmy Award winner Lydelle H. King. As a football player I was excited to speak with an alumni that also played football while in high school. You may or may not know this but, University doesn’t have it’s own football team. So, if you attend University then you have to play football for another school. I play for West Side and Mr. King played for Shabazz. Right away we had something in common.

After high school Mr. King went to Colgate University in upstate New York on a full scholarship to play football. I"ll be going to Clark Atlanta University next fall to play football on a full scholarship as well. From that moment on I was very interested to hear what Mr. King had to say because it is always good to know what life after football looks like.

It is good to know that you can still be involved in a sport you love even when you’re no longer playing. Now I hope I can play football in college and beyond but it is good to know that there are other career options available to me that are sports related. Mr King is a SR. Managing producer at the television sports network ESPN, INC. He oversees the department that produces long form features, and short documentaries that air on various platforms including ESPN films, sportscenter’s marquee brand Sports Center featured and My Wish Series, College Gameday Football & Basketball, NBA and NFL Countdown. Basically, Mr. King is in charge of the programs we all watch on ESPN especially College Gameday Football & Basketball. Anytime I need to know the latest information in the world of sports I turn these shows on. I thought it was really cool to know that the person in charge of these programs has roots right here in Newark, NJ. Plus, it’s kind of dope to know that Black people are behind the cameras at ESPN and not just on the field playing ball. 

Photo: Courtesy

When I asked Mr. King about his time here at University he had so many good memories he wanted to share. When I asked him his fondest memory he had this to say:

“My fondest memory of University is actually a conversation I had with a teacher during my time there. Mr. Hankerson was an Algebra teacher with a tendency for making us think about things other than math. He wrote the following on a piece of paper… Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 1929-1968, Malcolm X 1925- 1965, Sojourner Truth circa 1797-1883, -- The list continued with several other names, and he repeatedly pointed the “hyphen”, my life-- what it meant at that time, what it will mean after I’m gone-- what accomplishments and/or failures it will represent. It didn’t resonate with me then because only sports mattered at the time, but it’s when I started to become older, and a lot slower did this conversation spark decisions I began to make in life.”

It was important to me to know what someone that has gone on to be successful in their chosen profession has to say to those of us trying to get there. So I asked Mr. King to drop some knowledge and he leaves us with this...

“My advice to UHS students is simple-- “Live your life for you… follow your curiosity.
Even though you may not have a clear vision for your career, you are probably curious about things which may or may not be obvious to you. It’s important to follow your curiosity and uncover your less obvious interests. The reason it’s important is that those interests tap into your unique motivations that separate you from others. Pursuing them sets you on the path of unlocking who you are and your creativity.

A good way to tune into these interests is to ask yourself,  'What you would do if you had a billion dollars?' Once you figure them out, be dogged in your pursuit of happiness.

  • Make a list of everything you plan to do with your life. 
  • Write it down in a notebook. 
  • Don’t work about how crazy or insane it sounds or how it’s ever going to happen. 
  • Just make the list. 
  • At the end of every year see how many things you’ve managed to cross off. 
It may sound cliche but if there was ever a moment to follow your passion and do something that matters to you, that moment is now. Start investing in you!”

It is good to know that University High School played a role in helping to prepare Lydelle to do the best and be the best. This atmosphere and the teachers in it pushed him toward success. Now, he’s doing a job that he loves and not just a job he has to do. All in all, I walk away from this experience knowing that I can have a life in sports outside of playing football.

Thanks Mr. King for trailblazing another lane.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Alumni Feature: Nikiya Mathis

Photo: Courtesy 

Walking Into Your Destiny: Artist Nikiya Mathis

By: Amber Moses

I don’t know about you, but for me it is hard to get up after a fall. Or rather a failure. Failing at anything truly seems like the end of the world. Especially now that I’m at the end of my high school career. I, like other seniors are about to graduate from high school in a few short months. At this point of the year everything is all figured out. For the most part we all know what we want to do next year and where we are going. So any failure or rejection can ruin that. Recently, I was able to interview University High Alumna Nikiya Mathis. Some of the things she said to me really put “failing” into perspective.
Now, Ms. Jones told me that she was an actress. Yet, when I asked her about her current profession she had this to say:

“I’ve learned to call myself an “artist” first because that title doesn’t limit me to only one facet of myself and my artistry has revealed itself in ways I could not have imagined while at University High. As an “artist”, I express my creativity through acting. I have worked extensively in NY as well as regional theaters across the country. I’ve had several commercials running for companies like the NFL, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese as well as a national Dunkin Donuts spot that is currently running.

My television credits include Braindead, Person of Interest, Madam Secretary and The Good Wife on CBS; The Night Of on HBO; and the Blacklist on NBC. My acting has also opened doors to teaching. I’ve taught at Spelman College, New York University and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, among others.

My acting has also lead me to hair consulting for actresses of color. I started doing hair when I was a Freshman at University High. My friends would see my hair and ask me to do theirs. I continued to do hair into college and grad school, as a hobby. However, as an actress of color, when I was cast in shows, there were rarely any Black wardrobe and hair people and they were uneducated about Black hair, so I found myself doing my cast mates’ hair in shows that I was supposed to just be an actress in. The need for natural hair support in theater and tv caused me to start a company called ActTRESSES Hair Consulting, where actors, theaters and film productions hire me as a consultant on their projects. And lastly, but most importantly, my acting has lead me to mentorship.

While in graduate school, my love for young people-of-color lead me to co-direct a mentorship program called Mocha Misses. Since then, I have mentored students through Epic Theater Company and I’m currently a mentor in Drama and Oratory for the NAACP Act-So Program.

That is way more than just one thing. She’s a woman of many talents. And that kind of made me optimistic that I don’t have to put all of my eggs in one basket. Even though she’s been featured in a lot of commercials, TV shows and some off Broadway productions --if you ask Nikiya this was almost a path that she didn’t choose for herself.

When we talked about Nikiya’s fondest memory at University she revealed this:

“My fondest memory would be when my English teacher Mrs. Ferrera submitted one of my poems to be published in an anthology of poetry for students and then advised me that I should join the drama club with Mrs. White. I had never considered performing before, but I took her advice and went to my first poetry competition. While on the stage, I got terrible stage fright and totally bombed. Needless to say, I didn’t win that competition. But I went on to join the Forensics team the next year with Mrs. White and started on a winning streak, competing in the categories of dramatics, oratory and poetry. So my fondest memory is of Ms. Ferrera and that she saw something in me that I didn’t see myself. That was a major factor in my success.”

You would expect an actress to be born at a school like Arts High School, but I found that to be interesting that the teachers at University were also inspiring students to follow an artistic path.

After graduating from Uni she completed my undergraduate degree at Temple University with a BA (in Theater and Communications and a minor in African American Studies. She went on to get a MFA (Master of Fine Arts degree) from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts’ Graduate Acting Program.

When asked if she thought University adequately prepared you for college and her career Nikiya gave most of the credit to her English teachers.

“One thing that University High definitely prepared me for was the ability to write good term papers. I was also on University’s Forensics team, which played a huge part in preparing me to major in Theater and Communications. Had I not had to practice for those weekly tournaments and compete with students across the country, I wouldn’t be as comfortable speaking and performing in front of large crowds.

I would say to the students of University to take chances. Sometimes the greatest opportunities in our lives just “fall into our laps”, but that won’t happen if you don’t step outside of your comfort zone. I went to school for acting but I stumbled upon so many other passions. I’d say not to let fear stop you. When I applied to NYU I was warned that I might not get in because so many talented people apply every year. They were right. I actually didn’t get in the first time, but it wasn’t because there were so many people more talented than me. It was because I wasn’t ready. It wasn’t God’s timing.

I also needed to experience that rejection in order to learn that “rejection” can be a “blessing” and the greatest “lesson”. I decided to apply to NYU again, and I was ready the next time.

My advice is to take a chance on yourself. If a door closes, that might just mean that it’s not your time, or that God has something even more amazing for you down the line.

Just keep walking.”

Nikiya’s message is simple, she wants us to take chances and step outside our comfort zone. Facing rejection is not the end of the world. In fact, it could all be apart of God’s plan for us and there could be something greater later. From the words of Nikya I’m going to “keep walking” and you should too!

Sports Feature: Girls' Basketball Captain, Danielle Robinson

Photo: NJ.COM 

Finishing Strong

By, Nefertiti Cooper

This is the last year that senior Danielle Robinson will play basketball on a high school level. Danielle started her basketball career at BRICK Avon Academy where she played for coach Marc Harris. Many high schools wanted Danielle on her team and while she started her high school career with Shabazz’s Lady Bulldogs. She eventually made the right choice and became a Phoenix. Danielle took some time out of her busy schedule to sit down and share her thoughts with me about her final season. Danielle has several options for college. The colleges that she's considering are California State, Florida State and Georgia State.

By the time she was able to grant me an interview she’d recently hit a basketball milstone by scoring 1,000 points for the duration of her career.

How does this season feel knowing that this is your last year here at Uni?

“It is a very intense and emotional feeling knowing this will be my last time playing with these amazing and talented group of ladies.”

Did you set any goals for yourself going into this season?

“Yes my main goal was to get win a state championship and win a Tournament Of Champions” This is a tournament that you win after your win the state championships.”

Name something you’re most proud of your team for.

“I’m most proud of is there ambition and hunger to win it all.”

What predictions are you willing to make for yourself and the team this season?

"My only prediction is that we will win it all."

Photo: NJ.COM 

Danielle is the captain of her team and usually the highest scorer but every great leader realizes that no one person can do everything alone. When asked about why they are successful and to identify something that the Lady Phoenix has that other teams don’t, Danielle had this to say.

“Our secret weapon are our two freshman varsity players, Tanisha Tucker and Tara Johnson. We also have most of our players that won a state championship last year still playing. I think we may win it all because I have a team full of soldiers that’s going to fight for what we want. As a team we want to win. Our team has a chip on our shoulders. We been overlooked, doubted and disrespected. No other team has gone through that but we won’t let that get in our way.

"We will use that as our motivation to win it all.”

As of right now they have a pretty good shot at it. The girls’ record is 11-1.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Alumni Spotlight: Kitab Rollins

The Man Behind The Scenes

By, Carlos Shamburg

Often times in high school you hear about how students can’t wait to get out of high school and never come back. I found out that is not the case for University Alum. Right now there are at least five alumnus on staff here at our school. Our journalism teacher is one of them. She connected me with an alumni that lives and works right here in our great city of Newark. In fact, Mr. Kitab Rollins is the man who helps to bring the BET’s annually nationally televised special Black Girls Rock to our great city of Newark. (No he can’t get you tickets! LOL)

Recently I was given the honor to interview one of University High School’s most notable alumni Mr. Kitab Rollins. Mr. Rollins is currently the, “Manager of Performance and Broadcast Rentals at New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC).” So what that means is, “when promoters or other organizations want to rent a theater at NJPAC to produce their concert, I manage that entire process. Or when a TV special or commercial shoots at NJPAC, I manage that entire process. The most high profile event I manage is BET's Black Girls Rock. In addition to my job at NJPAC, I'm also the seating manager for the American Black Film Festival (ABFF), an annual event held in Miami that is dedicated to showcasing quality film and television content by and about people of African descent. I am responsible for seating the assorted VIPs, talent (celebrities), and sponsors at all the festival screenings and panel discussions. I also manage the VIP section at all the ABFF parties.” Who knew that Black folks were doing jobs like this? Let alone ones that are born and bred right here in Newark...

Now, before embarking on his exciting career his life’s journey started right here when he entered University in the 7th grade and stayed until he graduated at the top of his class in 1998. (I’m aware that he went to school somewhere else. But for the purposes of this article, it’s all about UHS.)

I’m extremely grateful that he took time from his busy schedule to give me his time and answer a few questions about his time here at the University High School.

After high school Mr. Rollins attended Rutgers University in New Brunswick. He entered as an EOF student majoring in Electrical Engineering. Sophomore year he changed to a double major in Communication and Africana Studies. See, don’t worry if you don’t have everything all figured out -- it is okay to change your mind and your major.

When asked if he thought University adequately prepared him for college and/or a career Mr. Rollins had this to say,

“Most certainly. I was fortunate enough to attend UHS when Latin was offered to 7th and 8th graders. And Latin greatly prepared me for SATs and writing in general. Aside from that, during my years at UHS, my classmates and I regularly did homework together before hanging out, which I carried over into my college years. I will say that although UHS was more academically rigorous than typical high schools in Newark, I was definitely taken aback by the amount of work my professors handed out versus my high school teachers. But if you take your high school studies seriously, you'll naturally carry over those behaviors into college.”
Looking back, what do you think is your fondest memory from University?

“ many wonderful memories to share.
Arriving at school at 7:30am for zero period chorus class with Mrs. Juanda Boxley.
Playing with my friends in the lunch room.
Hanging out with friends after school.
Most importantly, my closest friends to this day are folks that I met at University almost 25 years ago. Yes, I'm that old.”

Lastly, what advice would you give to current University students.
“Extract as much information from your teachers as possible.
Know that your teachers' sole mission is to shape you into the best student, and therefore the best person you can be. For example, to this day, I cannot, in good conscious, utter the words "being that," "seeing that," or "due to the fact that," because my former English teacher, Mrs. Marilyn Louis Howard ingrained in us that those terms are not to be used in standard English. Also, whenever I have to read something important, I pick up a pencil or pen because Mrs. Marie Gironda taught us to read with a pen.”

Enjoy this time of your life, and cherish the friendships you've made. They just may still be your best friends 20 years from now. I can attest to that!

I took away a lot from my interview with Mr. Rollins but the thing that stands out most to me is this-- enjoy high school,’cause it could very well be the best time of your life. There will be no other time when we will be as carefree as we are now. I, like most kids my age don’t look at it like that. But when you stop and think about it, it just makes sense.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Alumni Spotlight: Tami Charles

My Chat With University High Alum 
Author:Tami Charles
By, Vanessa Iowah & Brenaijah Gittens

Five hand selected students had the pleasure of reading an Advanced Reader’s Copy of Tami Charles' debut novel, Like Vanessa due to hit bookstores March 2018. I'm so pleased that Brenaijah and I were one of them. Like Vanessa is a story set in the 1980’s, occuring in our very own city, Newark, NJ. Telling the tale of a Black, 8th grade girl, named Vanessa Martin. She faces a plethora of problems, such as family issues, insecurities, bullies, broken friendships, and poverty. Despite the unfortunate predicament she is placed in, she stays strong and preserves through it all. Vanessa is inspired by Vanessa Williams' nomination as the first African-American Miss America. She is able to take one huge step towards her own goal of becoming the future Miss America and learn to love, as well as, appreciate herself. The novel also aims to send a message of strength and encouragement to Black girls and woman and pretty much anyone else who is struggling with identity issues.

Behind the inspirational and powerful story is author, Tami Charles. She is a mother, writer, bestfriend, and University High School alum. On December 20th, she joined my bestfriend and I, in an interview to discuss her recent work, her time at the school, and her future in writing.

What inspires you to write?

"I believe it is important write about strong girls of color. I want to be a role model, someone people can look up to and relate to. My writing is meant to be relatable so people can know that they don’t face these issues alone and it gets better. So I can encourage people to follow dreams, no matter what, and chase them with all their heart."

Did you write when you were younger?

“All the time…” My older work isn’t anything I’d be too eager to show, but I’ve been writing for as long as I could remember. Writing is something that comes easily to me, like second nature, I’ve always enjoyed it and will continue to. “Especially as little girl, I would always talk to myself, always made up stories.”

How did you develop an interest in writing?
“I’ve always loved to write… as a little girl… I always made up stories.” Even though I always wrote, it was just a couple years ago that I’ve given my dream of being an author an actual chance. I had been teaching for 14 years though, and it was actually my students that pushed me to pursue being a published author. But, I wasn’t addressing the topics I did in Like Vanessa then, until later.

While I was reading I wondered what Vanessa’s mom (in Like Vanessa) symbolizes for her?

“Most children look up to their mothers, but unfortunately, for Vanessa that was missing. She was only able to create a faint recollection of her mother from incomplete past memories and hopeful dreams. These memories created a perfect image of her mother that she continuously worshipped and looked up to, often comparing herself to them. Because her mother wasn’t around for most of her childhood, she was filled with this emptiness and misunderstanding.”

What inspired you to write about this topic?

My previous work didn’t tell “stories that were authentic to me.” I needed my first book to convey a deep message, as my introduction to the world of publishing. One day I went out to dinner to a editor that had rejected me and “...her question to me was, you know, she said you have all these interesting parts about you; culturally, experience-wise, why are you not writing about that?” And that question motivated me to “re-evaluate who I wanted to be as an author.”

How long did it take you to write Like Vanessa?

I had the idea after meeting with the editor that encouraged me to start writing on topics along the the lines of the ones in Like Vanessa (culture and empowerment). I started writing it in 2013, completing the first draft because of an online writing contest. After reviewing it in during winter, I started querying by the spring of 2014. My agent and I spent about a year revising the story, until we finally found an accepting publishing house. Then, we spent another year revising with the editors. So, I’ve been writing Like Vanessa for 5 years, along with a couple side projects. I’ll be publishing 7 books, in the next 2 years."

Where do you get your ideas?

"Two books that I’ll be publishing next year were written from pitched ideas. The ideas were pitched to me from 2 publishers, “so I take the idea, and add in all the stuff.” But, I get all my original ideas from anywhere. I get inspired from anything from “watching kids talk” to “newspaper articles.” I also have a notebook with about 15 ideas, that I plan to develop and create new stories from. Basically, I get inspiration from anything."

What is your advice to aspiring, young authors?
  1. “If you are young and want to be an author: Believe that you can; 
  2. If you truly want to be an author, you need to read everything (especially the style of writing that you want); 
  3. If you want to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader; 
  4. You need some form of discipline (a designated time for writing).” 
Since Ms. Charles is an alumni of University High School we couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to ask her about her days here at UHS.

How would you categorize your experience at UHS?
"I had a really good experience here and attended University from 7th to 12th grade. I had amazing teachers that helped me graduate with scholarships and fuel my love for literature. My 7th and 8th grade AP Literature and Latin teacher, Marie Giranda, “introduced us to fine, classic, beautiful literature and she helped me love words” as well as, teach me about Latin roots. My math teacher, Darnell Davis, and Spanish teacher, Quetzy Rivera, helped me apply for extracurricular academic activities and scholarships. “ time here at University was very valuable, I met my best friend, Stephanie Bowles [here].” I truly appreciate my time and here and I am proud to be a UHS alumni."

We really enjoyed our chat with Tami Charles. It was really cool to meet the person that wrote a book that we read. We appreciate the time that she took to spend talking with us. When we asked Tami Charles if she had any advice for the students that attend her alma mater she said this:
“Whatever it is you want to do in life, find someone else who is doing it better, study… look to see what that person is doing, how they’re doing it, what makes them so great at it, take little tidbits; make your own.”


A Basketball Story By: Dominique Joseph Since this is my last year playing high school ball I wanted to take a minute and loo...