The first Baltimore City high school students selected
to a new Johns Hopkins scholarship program have much in
common. In addition to the four being seniors at Baltimore
Polytechnic Institute, three are enrolled in the same
city-based advanced math and science project, two already
have a research connection to the university, and now all
four are planning to live and study at the Homewood
Ryan Harrison, Jasmine Jones, Tam Nguyen and Kim Smith
constitute the inaugural group of Baltimore Scholars, a JHU
program that provides full-tuition awards to graduates of
Baltimore City public schools accepted to the university's
undergraduate programs. The initiative intends to give the
city schools' best and brightest students the opportunity
to stay near home and study at one of the nation's premier
All four students applied early decision and learned
of their acceptances on Dec. 15.
Nguyen, who moved with her family from Vietnam to the
United States when she was a toddler, will be the first of
her family to attend college. A dedicated self-starter,
Nguyen has tutored 10th-grade students as part of the
National Honor Society and currently tutors math at Roland
Park Middle School. Since summer, she has also worked on
drugs targeted at cancer-related genes in the lab of Chi
Dang, professor of hematology at the School of Medicine.
Nguyen, who aspires to attend medical school, says the
opportunity to attend Johns Hopkins on full scholarship is
something she could scarcely imagine even a few months
"Johns Hopkins has always been my dream school," she
says. "Hopkins has a reputation for academic rigor, so I'm
looking forward to a school that will be able to challenge
me. I know this will be a challenge, but I feel like I'm up
to it, and I'm looking forward to doing research as an
Dang says he has no doubts that Nguyen — a
semifinalist in the prestigious Siemens Westinghouse
Competition in Math, Science and Technology who earlier had
her sights on UMBC — is bound for success.
"Tam has been absolutely terrific, and I'm delighted
that she was chosen for this program. She is a wonderful
person, and hers is a great story," Dang says. "She has
been able to participate meaningfully in our research,
working with our postdoctoral fellows on a major part of
our project. She has been using complex software to analyze
which of the many tens of thousands of genes change by
using an anticancer drug. She has such a bright, young
mind, and she just ran through the use of this software.
She even taught me how to use parts of it."
Nguyen, Harrison and Smith all participate in the
Ingenuity Project, whose mission is to prepare highly
capable and motivated Baltimore students to achieve at
nationally competitive levels in mathematics and science.
One Baltimore City elementary school, three middle schools
and one high school, Baltimore Polytechnic, serve as the
It was through the Ingenuity Project that Harrison
came to work in the lab of Jeffrey Gray, assistant
professor in the Whiting School's Chemical and Biomolecular
Engineering Department. Gray contacted Ingenuity to see if
it had a student who could participate in his research.
For the past two years, Harrison has helped Gray with
computer simulations and modeling proteins. As a direct
result of his work at Johns Hopkins, Harrison was recently
named one of the top 300 science students in the country in
the Intel Science Talent Search. Last summer, Harrison gave
a brief talk at an academic conference in Washington State
and so impressed those gathered that many in the audience
believed he was a graduate student. Harrison turned down an
acceptance to MIT to attend Johns Hopkins.
"He has voraciously gone after the research topic here
— just went after it," Gray says. "Ryan comes in with
a keen, independent mind. He's a person who wants to do
something different. He will do great things with the
research scene here, and I hope he sticks around with us in
Jasmine Jones first learned of the Baltimore Scholars
Program through her cousin, an engineer. Johns Hopkins was
her first choice, she says, with Harvard, Drexel and Morgan
State also on her list.
Jones, who will study electrical engineering, says she
understands the challenge that lies ahead.
"Hopkins is one of the best schools, and I'm sure it's
going to be hard. I'm trying to brace myself for it," she
says. "I realize the three hours a day I spend studying
here might turn into six hours a day there."
An A-level student and a versatile athlete, Jones says
her family was ecstatic to hear the news of her acceptance
and they have since thrown her not one, but two, surprise
"I think they felt like it was them getting in," she
says. "I now have to live up to the expectations and do
well, not slack off. But I have a lot of people on my side
to help me relax."
Kim Smith, another member of the Ingenuity Project,
plans to study biology and philosophy at Johns Hopkins, as
she is interested in evolution and genetics. She found out
about the Baltimore Scholars Program through her mother,
who had heard about it on a local news broadcast.
Smith says that when she first started to look for
schools, she was focused on Cedar Crest College in
Pennsylvania and wasn't sure Johns Hopkins was right for
her. However, that feeling changed when she visited
"I actually fell in love with Johns Hopkins on the
tour," says Smith, who has since been back to the campus
twice, most recently with Harrison and Nguyen at an
Ingenuity Project luncheon held at the Johns Hopkins Club.
What was it about the tour specifically that impressed
"When I found out you had a rock-climbing wall!" she
The Baltimore Scholars Program is open to applicants
who have resided in Baltimore City and attended public
schools there for at least the three last years of high
school, and are accepted as first-year, full-time
undergraduates in the School of Arts and Sciences, School
of Engineering or Peabody Conservatory.
Scholars receive an award that covers tuition and
required fees for four academic years of study leading to a
bachelor's degree. Depending on financial need, applicants
may also be eligible for additional financial support to
cover other educational and living expenses. Support
continues as long as a student maintains at least a 2.0
GPA, completes at least 12 credits per semester and remains
in good standing.
Eligible students who cannot or do not wish to pursue
full-time undergraduate study may still qualify as
Baltimore Scholars. Up to three Baltimore Scholars annually
will be selected from applicants for the part-time
undergraduate programs in business or information systems
at the School of Professional Studies in Business and
Education. Baltimore Scholars in SPSBE will typically begin
study at Johns Hopkins after completing the equivalent of
60 undergraduate credits elsewhere, often by earning an
associate's degree at a community college. In addition, the
School of Nursing honors the scholarships for students who
begin at another JHU school and transfer into its program
their junior year.
Matthew Crenson, chair of the
Political Science Department and a graduate of both
Baltimore public schools and Johns Hopkins, is the lead
faculty adviser for the Baltimore Scholars Program, heading
a team of faculty and administrators who will support
Crenson says that this first group of Baltimore
Scholars "is quite an exceptional bunch" and, judging from
the way applications are shooting up, that there will
likely be quite a few more Baltimore Scholars when regular
acceptances go out in April.
"We had an open house for interested Baltimore City
students and families in December, and I was amazed to find
out how many city students, 80 of whom attended the
meeting, are interested in applying. It shows us there is a
big pool out there," Crenson says. "We hope through this
program to establish closer ties to the city and city
schools. This is a way to make sure that talented students
in Baltimore City schools have open access, without any
financial barriers, to a Johns Hopkins education. We want
to encourage and inspire these students, let them know that
upon graduation there is something waiting for them."
For more information on the program, go to