TOMS RIVER – High School North alum Maria Ressa has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Ressa, who is the co-founder and CEO of investigative news site Rappler, was nominated by Norwegian labor leader Jonas Gahr Støre.
“Prior to founding Rappler in 2012,” Støre said, “[Ressa] worked for CNN in Asia, where she specifically reports on terrorist networks. In recent years, Ressa has been harassed, persecuted, and arrested numerous times – due to her coverage of corruption … Ressa has for years lived with death threats and harassment on social media. She is thus both a symbol and a representative of thousands of journalists around the world.”
Ressa was the class president at High School North for three years. She performed as a member of the chorus, orchestra, and theatre clubs, played basketball and softball. She was also voted “most likely to succeed” and graduated from North in 1982.
“She did succeed in a big way by representing the values of truth in journalism in a democracy on the world stage,” said former classmate and fellow HSN ‘82 grad Shelly Bromberg.
Ressa recently spoke with High School North Principal Ed Keller about the nomination and how her Toms River roots have shaped her career path.
“I was an immigrant kid,” Ressa said. “Toms River and Toms River North shaped me as the person I would become. It was a path to acceptance.
“My teachers and my AP classes helped me get to Princeton. They helped my dreams come true.”
Keller said Ressa had a particular fondness for her former HSN orchestra director.
“My orchestra director, Don Spaulding opened the world to me.”
In an award-winning documentary on Ressa called A Thousand Cuts, she visits High School North from the Phillipines to play the violin in a memorial concert for Spaulding.
“Toms River North is my roots,” Ressa said. “It was such a pivotal time in my life. I learned to be comfortable with who I was.”
Not only has Ressa been nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, she’s also been included in Time’s Person of the Year issue alongside a group of fellow journalists in 2018.
Keller wants to nominate Ressa for the district’s Hall of Fame. He also plans to name the newly-renovated HSN auditorium after her completed in September.
“We are very proud of Maria’s accomplishments as well as her life’s work in helping others,” said Keller. This is a wonderful example for all of our current students, that anything is possible with hard work and determination. It is inspirational to think that someone who walked the same hallways was able to make a difference on the world stage.”