Toms River North High School in New Jersey recently held a ceremony to unveil the “Maria Ressa Auditorium,” which was named after former student and renowned Filipino American journalist Maria Ressa.
Members of the Toms River Board of Education voted unanimously to name the auditorium after Ressa, 58, in December 2021. During Monday’s ceremony, the school officially revealed the newly renovated auditorium.
“Every single decision you will make is going to decide who you are and whether your life has meaning,” Ressa, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and the co-founder of Philippine news outlet Rappler, told students at the event. “It’s not going to be how much money you make or how cool you are.”
She also urged her audience to “be skeptical of what you read on social media” since it is “meant to manipulate you.”
“The battle for our minds – and this is a battle for your minds – is waged and won, not by helping you think,” she said. “It’s won by manipulating your emotions.”
“The anger and hate is literally shaping who we will become as a people,” she continued. “It’s pumping toxic sludge for us. So, if you feel angry, or you feel like you hate another group, step back, take a deep breath, this thing literally rewires your brain.”
Born in Manila on Oct. 2, 1963, Ressa relocated to Toms River, New Jersey, with her family in 1973 at the age of 10. The move occurred amid the social and political unrest during then-president Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s rule in the Philippines.
Ressa graduated from Toms River North High School in 1982 and spent her undergraduate years at Princeton University. Before Monday’s ceremony, she visited her high school in February while on her way to Princeton to receive the Woodrow Wilson Award during the university’s Alumni Day.
She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2021 along with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta. She was also one of the four Asian journalists who were named Time’s Person of the Year in 2018.
After opening and running CNN’s Manila bureau in 1987, the award-winning journalist ran CNN’s Jakarta bureau from 1995 to 2005. She also led the newsroom of ABS-CBN, one of the largest television broadcasters in the Philippines, before co-founding Rappler in 2012.