I am writing to nominate a former high school student for your South Africa Book Club trip. Though it has been years since Tiffany Jackson graduated from the Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School in New Haven, Connecticut, she has remained involved with the school, opting to return to give back in various ways.
Tiffany is a remarkable individual. I have taught for nearly 25 years and she remains in my memory as the most focused and positive student of my teaching experience. For example, at 16 years of age, Tiffany would catch the train for New York after school, appear at the Apollo Theater's Amateur Night, and have herself and her completed homework ready for my first period class mere hours later.
After graduation, Tiffany earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Michigan. Then she returned to New Haven to attend Yale School of Music. This was followed by three years at the Houston Opera Company. Tiffany continues her operatic career with various performances in various venues.
Several years ago, between gigs, Tiffany returned to our school for a brief stint as a substitute teacher. As it happened, I was teaching one of my favorite books, Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country. It occurred to me what a wonderful experience for my students to hear a professional opera singer perform a selection from "Lost in the Stars," the musical version of the novel. Tiffany performed for several of my classes, and she was magnificent! Not only did she provide a moving tribute to Paton's work, she, once again, proved a shining example of hope for my students. Tiffany understands my students' inner-city experiences as she has experienced them herself.
Tiffany is living proof that life can be transcendent; one can achieve and grow through faith and love. It has been fourteen years since Tiffany first read Cry, the Beloved Country in my senior English Class. She exuded then, and later, the very themes of Paton's masterpiece: love of family and community, faith in God, and hope for a beautiful world.