By Harvey Dock
Rutgers-Newark freshman Thais Marques has been on the front line, battling injustices in the Newark community for over a year now. As a senior in high school Marques formed the Newark Students Union at Science Park, along with other students from Science Park High School. Science Park is a blue ribbon school, which is the highest award an American school can receive.
Of her experience at Science, Marques says, “Science is a very academically oriented school,” which helped create her foundation as an elite student. Marques, 19, graduated last year with a 3.7 GPA, while participating in the debate club throughout her four year tenure. Marques has bought her skills to Rutgers, where she continues to debate.
Marques’ debate skills are not just relegated to her academic environment, but also as a member of Communities United. According to its website, Communities United “is a progressive grassroots community organization committed to building power for low and moderate income people, predominantly in Newark.” Unlike a lot of community organizations that merely provide lip service and catchy phrases, Marques has been an active front line activist in the mission of the organization.
The Observer caught up with Marques and other members of Communities United over a week ago, protesting the privatization of Newark public schools by Superintendent Cami Anderson and the Chris Christie administration. Marques had organized a school walkout by a half dozen high schools across the city, including Science Park.
While marching down Newark Broad Street to City Hall, Marques argued, if we can’t get our voices heard when we go to Trenton, or when we go to school board meetings, then where is our voices heard?” Marques and other organizers were protesting Anderson’s One Newark plan to put the state-run school system into private ownership. This has been met by heavy resistance from civic organizations, as well as the two mayoral hopefuls, Shavar Jeffries and Ras Baraka.
Marques, who barely stands 5’2”, speaks with the force of a civil rights attorney when addressing various, contentious issues. As it just so happens, her goal is to be a civil rights attorney. Marques has not declared her major yet, but plans to pursue political science while continuing to be part of the debate club her at RU-N.
A native of Brazil, Marques immigrated to the United State when she was 5. She, along with her parents and older brother, have lived life close to the poverty line while battling discrimination and immigration laws that have fueled her inner fire with respect to immigration reform and other social injustices.
When addressing why she speaks out so passionately on these issues, Marques asserted that “Being silent isn’t something that’s going to change anything.”
My parents always pushed me to be independent,” Marques states when discussing the roots of her drive. “Even though I wasn’t given the opportunies that a lot of others were given, I take those opportunities for myself.”
When discussing her first year at Rutgers Newark, Marques is extremely happy with her decision to stay close to her family and community. She says, “Rutgers is way more than I expected. Rutgers-Newark has surpassed my expectations because all the professors I’ve had so far have taught me so much and in these last two semesters, I’ve learned more in topics that really interest me.” She goes on to say, “Before I came here, there was always a focus on New Brunswick being the best, and people saying ‘You’re only going to get a good education at New Brunswick,’ but that’s totally not true.”
Marques is looking to use her Rutgers Newark education as a springboard to attend Rutgers Law School. “I’m thinking of staying here, or possibly attending a law school in New York.” Whatever school she decides, Thais Marques is sure to leave a strong imprint on all injustices that come her way.