Tiffany Benjamin was a member of People’s Prep’s founding class when the school opened its doors in 2011. After overcoming a language barrier and battling shyness, Tiffany received the school’s Empathy Award at graduation: an annual honor that now bears her name.
She graduated from The College of St. Elizabeth this past summer and is in the process of studying for her LSAT. In a recent interview, Tiffany spoke about her path to and through college, and how People’s Prep has continued to support her every step of the way.
Tell us a little about yourself and your connection to Newark.
I was born and raised in Guyana, but my family emigrated to Newark when I was in middle school. When I first came here, I didn’t speak English very well, so I was very shy and didn’t want to participate in class. I went to Brick Avon Academy which is where my younger cousin went as well. She actually just started her freshman year at People’s Prep this year, so it’s kind of funny how similar our stories are.
My family and I have been attending the Metropolitan Baptist Church on Springfield Avenue for years. Being there really helped us feel connected to the community. My mom and I still cook meals for underserved families because it helped us see the need that’s out here.
How did you hear about PPCS?
Since we had just moved to Newark when I was in middle school, we didn’t know much about Newark high schools and weren’t sure where I was going to go. My grandfather saw a flyer for People’s Prep, so we applied. A few weeks later I found out I had been matched, and one of my future English teachers (Mr. Patton) came and interviewed us and told us everything about the curriculum and how seriously the school takes preparing students for college.
What do you remember most about high school?
Council (the school’s four year advisory program) was the best of the best. We got to do so much fun stuff and go places together. High school can be hard, so council gave us this space to laugh, cry, and talk about our problems to help each other through everything. Even though we graduated almost six years ago, most of us still keep in touch. They are like my second family.
What have you been doing since high school?
I graduated from The College of St. Elizabeth in the spring. Right now I’m working and studying for my LSAT so I can take it and start applying to law schools. While I was still at St. Elizabeth I interned at the Mayor’s Office and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. I also did a real estate internship and volunteered at the YMCA in Morristown.
How has PPCS continued to support you since graduation?
It’s a pretty long list. Throughout college they would email and text me just to check up on how I was doing. Whenever I did needed something, like textbooks or help with a project, they were always there. Even now, my council coach or someone from the OCP is always calling me to check up on me, my mom, and my family. They encouraged me when I didn’t get accepted to my Master’s program and helped me reapply for it the following year. The OCP has really pushed me to take initiative instead of just waiting around to go back, so I started to take law school even more seriously by studying for my LSAT.
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