Like so many alumni of Rutgers University–Newark, Aaliyah Cobbs, of Newark, New Jersey is the first in her family to obtain a bachelor’s degree. After earning an associate’s degree from Essex County College (ECC), Cobbs transferred to Rutgers-Newark as a scholar in the Honors Living-Learning Community (HLLC). Created in 2015 as one of the high strategic priorities of Rutgers-Newark, HLLC challenges and redefines the notion of “merit” or “honors.” A groundbreaking initiative that is revolutionizing honors, cultivating talent, and engaging communities, HLLC provides students with the resources and opportunities to be thought leaders within their fields, positive collaborators within their communities, and change agents in the world.

“When I think of Rutgers-Newark, I think of HLLC because most of my most impact moments at Rutgers-Newark came from my experiences in HLLC,” Cobbs stated. As an HLLC Scholar, Cobbs served as a peer tutor and coordinated several social events through Healing Sounds of Newark, an HLLC program that celebrates and supports artists who live and work in Newark and fosters healing through various art forms.

“As an HLLC Scholar, I realized the importance of mentorship. HLLC’s structured mentoring program gave me the support, counseling, and coaching I needed to succeed at Rutgers-Newark. Without it, I would have taken much longer to realize my passion for helping others and my desire to teach.”

A graduate of the School of Criminal Justice, Cobbs initially wanted to pursue a career in the criminal justice field. “HLLC gave me the tools for self-exploration so I could focus on what I really wanted to do; not what others may have wanted me to do.”

Cobbs now dreams of becoming a teacher. In pursuit of that aspiration, she will start the Urban Teachers program in Baltimore, Maryland, commencing June 2020. Through this four-year program, Cobbs will receive a master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Education and become dually certified to teach in either elementary education, secondary English or math, or special education.

“HLLC also gave me a platform to inspire others,” added Cobbs. In the summer of 2019, she accepted an invitation to speak to the incoming cohort of HLLC Scholars during their induction ceremony. “I believe so many of them connected with me because they saw someone from Newark successfully striving to achieve similar goals.”

Cobbs’s words of inspiration began during her first year at Rutgers-Newark with remarks she shared with PBS in its feature story about HLLC. “My mission is to empower the youth, to give them opportunities, [be a] resource.” (at 4:28)

Cobbs is accomplishing her mission of empowerment and positive role modeling. Her sister will graduate from ECC as a member of the Class of 2020 and transfer to Kean University in the fall. Cobbs’s cousin just completed her sophomore year at Caldwell University.

“If I’m viewed as a good role model and mentor, it’s because HLLC deans and faculty invested so much in me,” Cobbs smiled.