NEWARK (CBSNewYork) – It was a school assembly that will definitely end up in the Arts High School yearbook.

It’s not the first time celebrity guest will appear in it. After all, Michael B. Jordan graduated from the high school in Newark back in 2005.

“Newark made me who I was. It’s tough, it’s rough but at the same time a lot of love and community,” he said.

For his Esquire magazine cover shoot, the Black Panther actor returned back to his alma mater, to encourage current students to continue to dream big.

“He’s just like us. He has been there, done that. So it’s easy to relate,” said senior Malachi Geddy.

“It was breathtaking, honestly,” said junior Jehiny Rodriguez.

The whole thing was initially kept a secret, which caused a shock.

“We were not allowed to let anyone know, so only two people in the building knew: Myself and the vice principal,” said principal Ricardo Pedro.

He spent his time walking the halls, taking selfies with students, and watching the basketball team practice. His former coach is happy with the man he’s become.

“Don’t hear anything negative about him, that even though he is in the limelight, he is who he is, and we still support him,” said his former basketball coach Kennis Fairfax.

Last November, he told CBS This Morning‘s Gayle King how it’s important to see people from like backgrounds achieve their goals, like his director Ryan Coogler.

“Someone my age that looks like me, from similar places, similar family backgrounds. I never know that that was an option for me like that, in that way. That’s why it’s important to see it, 1,000 percent,” he said.

That’s what teachers say he did for the students there.

“Michael is a perfect example. He came from poor beginnings, and look at him now,” said his former math teacher Kimberly Kallai.

Arts High School was the first visual and performance arts school, opening in 1931. Since then, plenty of hopeful actors have walked through the halls, like junior Kaelan Roberts. He says meeting Jordan inspired him.

“We can do it, because he’s living proof,” Roberts said.

“Newark made me, and I am proud of it,” Jordan said.

And this city is proud of him.


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