As she prepares to start a new journey at Texas Woman’s University (TWU) in the fall, MacArthur High School senior Rokhaya Cissie reflects on her time in high school and the people who were instrumental in her growth as a student. Cissie grew up in Irving, having attended Clifton Early Childhood, Thomas Haley Elementary and Houston Middle Schools prior to MacArthur. She’s always had a passion for music, which prompted her decision to join the choir in high school. For Cissie, choir grew to be much more than a fine arts program – it opened doors to many opportunities and gave her a sense of family at school.

“I love the idea of being together in a group and creating a product. I also love my directors, Lauren Davis and Clinton Blanco – they have been a part of so many fond memories that I’ll never forget. Choir hasn’t just been a big part of my life, it’s a part of who I am,” says Cissie.

One of those fond memories was when the MacArthur A Cappella Treble Choir was invited to perform at the 2024 American Choral Directors Association Southwest (SWACDA) Conference in February. The conference, held in Denver, was attended by over 3,000 people and Cissie describes this as one of the best moments of her life. Another moment that comes to mind was getting accepted into college.

“For a long time, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. It took me a while to figure it out. I went through a lot of ups and downs during the process, but in the end I got accepted to TWU and I’m so excited,” she says. “This is a huge accomplishment for me and my family. When I graduate, I’ll be the first-generation in my family to graduate from a four-year university.”

Cissie plans to major in psychology, a topic that’s very important to her.

“I want to be able to understand what goes on everyday. You can’t see what’s going on with people by looking at them on the outside, and I want to help people struggling with the things you can’t see,” she adds. “I struggle with anxiety, so I understand and I want to help others.”

Upon graduating from MacArthur in a few weeks, Cissie will also earn her teaching certification due to being enrolled in the education pathway through Irving ISD’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program. She’s gained valuable experience and transferable skills through the program, including having the opportunity to intern as a student teacher at Brandenburg Elementary School and at MacArthur.

When reflecting on those who have greatly contributed to her growth and development as a student, two people quickly came to mind.

“Principal Natasha Stewart, 100%. She’s so supportive, not only regarding academics, but just as a person. She genuinely cares about her students and staff,” says Cissie. “I will also greatly miss my choral director Ms. Lauren Davis. She is another amazing, supportive figure. Ms. Davis has changed my life for the better – I can come to her about anything. I genuinely see her as someone to look up to and I will never forget the experiences she has given me.”

Cissie says nothing could have topped the great experience she had in Irving ISD and at MacArthur High School. While she’ll greatly miss the people and the environment, she’s excited for her college journey.