TRuths of TR Our students Our community Our stories

Inspired by Humans of New York, TRuths of TR is a student-driven photography and writing project. Each week, on this web page and on the district's Instagram, we will feature a student photograph and subsequent personal story. The mission of the project is to highlight the diversity of this district and community; share the untold stories of people we might blindly pass in the hallways every day; and expose the talents, struggles, thoughtfulness, and personalities of people we call friends, peers, classmates, or strangers.

TRuths of TR is district-wide at the high school level, and overseen by ELA Supervisor Tonya Rivera, World Languages Supervisor Adrienne Gold, and High School East Assistant Principal Erin Anders. They hope you will fall in love with these students and their stories the way they have, and that through these stories we may discover just how connected we all are. Eventually, the project hopes to expand to include submissions from parents, community members, and the adults in our schools. For now, we welcome you on this journey with us to share our TRuth.

If you're a Toms River Regional Schools high school student, complete this form to submit a feature for TRuths of TR.

Paige, High School North

Most of what I have learned about my mom has been through pictures and stories from other family members. Her name was Kimberly. She was creative. She loved to draw. She had a huge black-eyed Susan tattoo in honor of my great-grandmother, whose name was Kathy. Inside the tattoo there was a butterfly (she loved butterflies too), and a ladybug. The ladybug was in honor of my grandmother, whose name was Lori, but we called her Scubbie. One of my earliest memories of my mom was our trip to Disney when I was four years old. In the hotel room, in the top drawer of the dresser, there was a Finding Nemo figure set. Dory, one of the main characters in Finding Nemo, is like me; trying to find the parts of ourselves that we lose. We went on the vacation with my mom’s brother, my aunt and my older cousin. It was our last trip together. My mom ended up leaving us that same year. As a small child, I knew she was gone but I couldn't understand she was gone forever. One memory from her funeral that I often think about is the memorial board at the front of the room, all of the photographs that held traces of a life well-lived. There was one photo on the board that stands out in particular. My mom was wearing two party hats on her head, like horns, and she was beaming from ear to ear. I wish I could see that radiant smile in person today. Many people say their mom is the most beautiful woman they know, mine just happens to be the most beautiful woman I've never known. She was a kindergarten teacher, and while I never had the opportunity to grow up learning from her, she still left me with the most important life lesson. Like Dory from Finding Nemo, even when someone you love is lost, they are never completely gone. I see this lesson in the way my grandpa chokes up every time he mentions her, and the way my family celebrates her life, even after she has passed. My grandpa got a tattoo as a way of honoring my mom. The tattoo is from a photograph of my mom and I, it’s a silhouette of my mom reaching out to grab my hand on the beach and the water is in front of us. I know she is still reaching out to me now. My mom taught me that life is fleeting, but love lasts forever. Mom, you will always be my greatest teacher. I love you.

Kiley Madigan

Kylie, High School North

Growing up I always wanted to be like everyone else. I thought if I didn’t look a certain way or act like the popular kids, I wasn’t worthy of doing what they did and having what they had. So, for a long time, I isolated myself from things I wanted to do, and in doing so I began to feel lonely and not like myself. I would try so hard to be like others. I would say to myself, “What would she say right now?” or “Would they wear that?” There is a feeling of helplessness that comes with knowing you can never be the people you try so hard to become. I was in the background of my own life, not enjoying anything around me. Then, one day I looked at myself in the mirror and realized that this wasn’t the life I wanted to be living, that trying to be other people, meant not being myself. After that day, I began changing myself for the better. Instead of saying to myself, “Would she wear that or would she do that?” I would say, “What do I want?” Each day, I was working on myself. I was wearing what I wanted to wear. I was joining things I felt passionate about. Finally, I was acting like myself, I was being Kylie; which meant not acting at all. Eventually, I stopped worrying about what other people thought and I realized that no one really cared anyway, the self-doubt was just something I created in my mind. Looking back, I wish I didn't feel that way sometimes. But the truth is, if I didn’t first try to be like others, then maybe I wouldn’t have worked as hard as I did on myself, and maybe I wouldn’t have found out who I truly am. 

Published March 24, 2021

Cody, High School East (Class of 2020)

Throughout my life I have experienced hardships that have fueled me to be who I am today. I didn’t have a “traditional” childhood. My family was often homeless, living in a shelter or even a car. In spite of this, I didn’t allow my circumstances to bring me down or define me. In fact, the hardships created an energy within me to “get out” and be successful. I am still trying to figure out what being successful is, but I know I am on the right path.

My path started in elementary school, in a class for students with invisible learning disabilities. I discovered that I have a gift for connecting with and being able to support special education students. Little did I know that at ten years old, I had already found the passion that would help shape my future/career. In tenth grade, I was given the opportunity to become the youngest Community Action Program (CAP) student at High School East. CAP allowed me to earn credits toward graduation while assisting in our Autism Academy. While working in the Autism Academy I started to realize that my peers needed me as much as I needed them. Not only did I have the honor of helping the students with their education, at the same time they were helping me become the person I am today. The students created a positive energy within me. Whatever was wrong in the world - it was my work with these students that brought me through it. I knew I wanted to continue on this path after high school graduation.

Fast forward to today. I am a paraprofessional at High School East just three months after graduation and I am continuing to pursue my road to success. I wake up every morning in a healthy environment, thanks to a good friend who has given me stability. I go to work where I find peace and satisfaction in what I do everyday. I want to encourage everyone, regardless of their circumstances to fight for what they want and to believe in themselves. I never gave up the thought that I deserved to be successful.

Published March 17, 2021


Essence, High School North

I always had a very hard time believing in myself and sometimes I would even compare myself to others. I remember one day I was in my acting class at ActorsPlayground. I was new and I was very nervous about performing. Everyone seemed so good, and all I could think of was how I could never be as good as them. I was swallowed by my own self doubt. I started to cry. My acting teacher, Ralph Colombino came up to me. He told me that people who think they’re the worst, tend to come out the best! Ralph told me that he believes in me.

Looking back, I never really knew then how much Ralph's words would impact me today. Sometimes it's the little actions of people that we carry on in our hearts. Ralph's words did that for me. It was his kindness and the greatness of his heart that helped to make me, my now confident self. Of course I still doubt myself sometimes, don't we all? But I am always reminded of Ralph's words. Ralph's words helped me to improve my communication with my family as well. I am so happy to have my family and my AP family to turn to.

Published March 10, 2021