Feb. 22, 2021-- Maria Ressa, co-founder and CEO of investigative newsite Rappler and graduate of Toms River Regional Schools has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Ressa 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 graduated in 1982 from High School North, where she served as class president for three years; performed as a member of the chorus, orchestra, and theatre clubs; played basketball and softball; and, unsurprisingly, was voted “most likely to succeed.”
“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.
High School North Principal Ed Keller had the opportunity recently to speak to Ressa at length about what this nomination means to her, and how her Toms River roots have influenced 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.”
Ressa, Keller said, maintains a particular fondness for her former HSN orchestra director.
“My orchestra director, Don Spaulding opened the world to me,” she said.
An award-winning documentary on Ressa called A Thousand Cuts, which can be streamed on PBS, features a scene where she returns to 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.”
A nomination for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize is not Ressa’s first brush with worldwide fame. In 2018 she was included in Time’s Person of the Year issue alongside a group of fellow journalists.
Keller is seeking to nominate Ressa for the district’s Hall of Fame.
“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.”