Project ENGAGES: Raising the Bar

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Jahizreal Aquart is finishing his Project ENGAGES experience with a flourish. The graduating senior from B.E.S.T. Academy in Atlanta took home a third place award in the 2017 edition of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, May 19, in Los Angeles.

Aquart, who is mentored by postdoc Jessica Weaver in the lab of Andrés García in the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, earned a $1,000 prize for his research, titled, “Engineering and Anti-Inflammatory Drug Delivery System for Islet Transplantation,” in the Computational Biology and Bioinformatics category.

It’s a fitting encore for Aquart, who is completing his second and final year in the ENGAGES program, based in the Petit Institute at the Georgia Institute of Technology. A new class of high school students will be introduced to the program in June.

To qualify for the international fair, Aquart had to compete and win top prizes in science fairs at the school, local, and state level.

“This is a big deal for Jahizreal and a big deal for Project ENGAGES,” noted Manu Platt, co-founder and co-chair of the program with Bob Nerem, founding director of the Petit Institute. “The bar has been raised.”

Project ENGAGES had just recently experienced another “big deal” earlier in the month with its annual Senior Celebration (May 8). Aquart was among 16 high school students being recognized for their participation in ENGAGES who were treated to a keynote speech by pioneering author, physician, and educator Louis Sullivan.

“This is an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up,” said Sullivan, who was Secretary of Health and Human Services for President George H.W. Bush (1989-1993) and founding dean and former president of the Morehouse School of Medicine. “I’ve worked primarily at trying to improve the lives of my fellow man by helping to develop new generations of contributors.”

This was not just a hint for the gathered ENGAGES students and families, who come from six minority-serving public high schools in Atlanta. This was expectation from a giant in the realm of health policy and minority health advocacy.

Sullivan looked out at the people packed into the Suddath seminar room and continued, “I was the beneficiary of many role models during my life. The things I’ve been able to do are because of the inspiration, encouragement, and support I received from many people along the way. We are a great nation, but as you all know, we still have many imperfections. Those imperfections are going to be erased by the activities of you, our young people, as you work to achieve your greatest potential.”

Aquart will continue working toward that potential this fall when he begins attending the University of Hartford. While all of his fellow ENGAGES seniors are making post-graduation plans, a number have already made commitments: Lauren Bailey (Spelman College), Kyte Harveywork (Georgia Tech), Chrisangela Martin (Georgia State), Dre’Quan Riley (Georgia Southern), Ayan Robinson (Georgia National Guard), and Ashley Scott (Georgia Southern).

Now completing its fourth year, Project ENGAGES (Engaging New Generations at Georgia Tech through Engineering and Science) is a unique, year-round high school STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education program started at Georgia Tech by Platt, associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, and Nerem, the Parker H. Petit Distinguished Chair for Engineering in Medicine and Institute Professor Emeritus.

The program, which offers two tracks for students – biotechnology and engineering – is a partnership with six minority-serving public high schools in Atlanta: Coretta Scott King Young Women's Leadership Academy, B.E.S.T Academy, KIPP Atlanta Collegiate, Charles R. Drew Charter High School, South Atlanta High School, and also Benjamin E. Mays High School, named for Sullivan’s mentor, longtime president of Morehouse College, and a leader of the civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s.

Sullivan, a 1954 Morehouse graduate, told his audience that he and his contemporaries received an important charge from Mays and the other faculty at Morehouse: change the world, not just fit in.

“Dr. Mays had an expression he liked to share: ‘Each of you were born to this world to do something special, so you must find out what that is, because if you don’t, the world will be at a loss,’” Sullivan said. “Those are the things that inspired us.”



Intel International Science Fair 2017 (See Jahizreal near the 1:01:00 mark)




Louis Sullivan Bio



Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience


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