Movin’ on up: Rusk middle schoolers head to high school

The Baylor College of Medicine Biotech Academy at Rusk celebrated its first graduating class to complete the three-year health science program in a ceremony held on May 29 at the TMC Innovation Institute. Baylor faculty and Rusk staff presented encouraging words and certificates of achievement to the 126 students moving forward into high school.

Emily Jones, one of the graduating students, recounts her time and favorite memories while attending the Biotech Academy at Rusk.

“It’s really exciting because we know that we were kind of the test subjects for everybody, and we saw firsthand how it can be difficult for people to adjust to different things,” Jones said. “It was really interesting but exciting at the same time.”

Rusk is the second middle school in the Houston Independent School District affiliated with Baylor, the first being the Baylor College of Medicine Academy at Ryan Middle School. The two magnet schools focus their curriculum on the health sciences while also offering pre-AP courses and high school credit. Each year at Rusk, students are required to take advanced health science classes such as scientific decision-making or biotechnology.

For Jones, her most memorable moments at Rusk include taking a neuroscience class in the sixth grade and participating in Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA), an international student organization for those interested in a career in the health professions.

“We studied all year, worked on our projects and then went to a competition in San Antonio and then competed in that,” Jones said.

After competing in the HOSA state contest in March, Jones was chosen to represent the state of Texas this summer at the HOSA International Leadership competition at Walt Disney World. A total of 13 students from Rusk qualified to compete in the international conference in Florida.

Jones will be attending high school at the Houston Academy for International Studies and hopes to become a doctor in the future.

“Rusk is a great school because each person and staff member really makes sure that the curriculum is adjusted to each student and the way that they learn,” Jones said. “Each person really does take in the information no matter how hard it is or where they started.”

Katherine Harris, the project manager of the school, addresses that Rusk is the only middle school in the Houston area to offer students a chance to participate in HOSA and offer high school credit for introductory biotech courses. She adds that she believes Rusk offers a more personalized middle school experience where everyone within the community feels like family.

“I am so proud to see this group of eighth graders promoted to high school,” Harris said. “This is the first group to leave Rusk having gone through the entire three-year health science program. These students are exceptional – they have shown outstanding academic achievement, tenacity and leadership ability.”

Magnet Coordinator Senta Butler said she appreciates the students and parents at Rusk for taking a chance and remaining with the academy during its transition into the school it is today.

“We are at capacity, but our goal is to equip all of our students to meet the demands and challenges of high school and beyond,” Butler said. “We want to grow into a school that evolves constantly, meeting the needs of each and every one of our students while providing them access to the latest technology and evidence-based curriculum while growing them to their fullest potential.”

Harris said she looks forward to seeing how these students will contribute to the world of medicine in the future.

“I think that Rusk is unique because we are not only preparing students for success in high school, but we are preparing them to be the next trainees and faculty of the Texas Medical Center, the world’s largest medical center,” Harris said. “We cannot wait until one of our students’ research or clinical expertise cures the incurable or provides a medical breakthrough that the world has long been waiting for.”

Dr. Adam Kuspa, senior vice president and dean of research, delivered the keynote speech at the ceremony, urging students to always stay curious, be passionate and keep learning. Eighth grade students at Baylor College of Medicine Academy at James D. Ryan Middle School also celebrated their promotion ceremony, which was attended by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, and students at both Rusk and Ryan middle schools also hosted Dr. Paul Klotman on their campuses, displaying their projects to Baylor’s president, CEO and executive dean.

-By Kaylee Dusang

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