EAST ORANGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — After decades of shattering stereotypes and breaking ground on the stage and screen, the late Cicely Tyson’s greatest legacy may be in the young people she inspired during her career.Candidate Conversations: Jack Ciattarelli
“Although her name is on the front of the school, she has been in this school since day one,” Mayor Ted R. Green told CBS2’s Nick Caloway.
The school was named after Tyson in 1995, but she was far more than a namesake.
“Every year, she’s been here. She’s been involved, actively involved,” said Assistant Superintendent Anita Champagne.
Tyson worked with the students, inspiring them and reminding them that they, too, can become great.
“And not necessarily so that they could become the next Cicely Tyson, right? But just so that they would have the tools needed to be successful in life,” said Dr. Passion Moss-Hasan, the school’s former principal.
Tyson invited students to her final Broadway show – the 2015 production of “The Gin Game,” in which she starred opposite James Earl Jones.
“She had made sure that we had enough seats for over 200 or 300 of our kids here to come,” said Champagne.READ MORE: Liberty Science Center Breaks Ground On $300 Million SciTech Scity Expansion
In an interview with CBS This Morning’s Gayle King, Tyson said, “I cannot tell you what it meant to me to look out into the audience and see those little Black faces. So happy, so joyous, so full of love and wonder.”
Tyson was also surprised to have the school’s choir back up CeCe Winans at her Kennedy Center Honors tribute in 2015.
Now that she’s gone, current and former students say it’s up to them to carry on her legacy.
“What she did by giving back is what I personally want to live by. Giving back to my community,” said Allen Ashby, a former student.
Cicely Tyson was a guiding force for the school and those who roamed its halls over the the last 25 years.
Students say Tyson is a beacon of hope that will continue to shine bright for generations to come.
CBS2’s Nick Caloway contributed to this report.MORE NEWS: Watch CBS2’s Candidate Conversation With New Jersey Gubernatorial Candidate Jack Ciattarelli
MORE FROM CBS NEW YORK: