Michael Amoako: First Afro-American Valedictorian of New Jersey Hiigh School

When he begins his studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in September, Michael Amoako said he will be ready not only academically, but socially as well, as he is excited to meet people from all walks of life, thanks to his experience growing up in Teaneck.

“One thing about Teaneck is it’s a very diverse place in terms of different cultures, attitudes and ideas,” said the Teaneck High School Class of 2015 Valedictorian. “I think that growing up in such a community will help me interact with anyone I might meet in college and in the future since I’ve already been exposed to so many different cultures and people.”

While a student at THS, Amoako received several honors and awards including National Achievement Scholar, AP Scholar and the Bausch and Lomb Honorary Science Award, an award given by the National Honor Society based on a student’s grades in all of the science classes they have taken. He also received the Certificate of Excellence in English, the Excellence Award for Limitless Devotion from the S.O.L.V.E. club (Students Obtaining Leadership Values Effectively), and was named student of the month twice.

Last summer, Amoako attended the New Jersey Governor School of Engineering and Technology at Rutgers University, where he did research in chemical engineering. The research project involved working with three other students and a mentor to create a small car during a limited amount of time that ran solely on chemical reactions.

Amoako serves as the leader of publicity for S.O.L.V.E., the co-captain of the Math-Challenge Team, the leader of the Student Advisory Committee of the Caribbean Club and works as a math and science tutor for the National Honor Society.

As the captain of THS’s competitive Robotics Team, Amoako and the team won an award for best documentation of its robot in the Panasonic Creative Design Challenge, held at NJIT this spring.

Out of the colleges he applied to: MIT, Harvard, Princeton, the Georgia Institute of Technology and Rutgers University, Amoako was accepted to all five. He chose MIT because the school offered the best opportunities for research in electrical engineering and computer science, Amoako said.

At MIT, he plans to pursue a degree in electrical engineering and computer science and conduct research in robotics and artificial intelligence.

“I’m looking to go into the robotics industry,” he said. “I believe there are a few robotics companies in Boston and I’d like to try and improve the current AI (artificial intelligence) robots so they are able to interact with humans more closely.”

As a freshman and sophomore at THS, Amoako played football in the fall and ran indoor and outdoor track in the winter and spring. During his junior and senior years he ran cross country, indoor and outdoor track and has varsity letters and awards in all three sports including “Most Determined Male Athlete” (Outdoor Track 2014). He will continue to run indoor and outdoor track at MIT.

Amoako put in about 180 hours of community service, including many hours supporting Project Goodwill Africa, an organization his father established to send computers back to his hometown in Ghana.

“I created a Power Point and other projects to educate kids there how to use the computers, so they can go into jobs relating to technology,” he said.

Amoako graduated as the high school’s first African-American male valedictorian on June 23, 2015. In his speech to his fellow students during the ceremony, he reminded them to “never settle for less than the best” as they strive to reach their dreams.

Note: The student has Ghanaian lineage

Source: Megan Burrow

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