Soledad O'Brien at Cicely L. Tyson Community School of Performing & Fine Arts

Soledad O'Brien, Reginald Van Lee and Cicely Tyson attend
the Cicely L. Tyson Community School of Performing & Fine Arts
grand unveiling on October 24, 2009 in East Orange, New Jersey.
(10-23-09  Photo: Brian Killian/Getty Images North America)

The $143-million state-of-the-art facility opened its doors to more than 1,000 students in September and celbrated its formal unveiling October 24th.

"Its like carrying a child and giving birth," said Tyson, who has been an active participant in school decisions, graduations and other events since the school was named for her in 1995. "The birth date is Oct. 24."

The celebrity guests included singer-songwriters Nick Ashford and his wife, Valerie Simpson, actresses Angela Bassett and Tamara Tunie, gospel singer BeBe Winans, an active supporter of the school, Susan Taylor, the editor emeritus of Essence magazine who is also an author and philanthropist, and Faye Wattleton, the former president of Planned Parenthood of America who is currently the president of the Center For Advancement of Women.

Gov. Jon Corzine headed up the elected officials who attended, including East Orange Mayor Robert Bowser, several members of the city council, and state Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex).

CNN's Soledad O'Brien, who served as mistress of ceremonies for the performances during the event, said she was "amazed" by the school and the students.

"In this school, the young people can follow their dreams, but also receive an intense academic experience," O'Brien said, adding that school officials and staff care about "the whole person here."

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