November 3, 2010

Outstanding Student Leader to Spend Winter Break in Uganda

Derrius Lamar Quarles is a 20-year-old sophomore at Morehouse College. As a Psychology and Sociology double major with a triple minor in Public Health, Neuroscience, and Leadership Studies he hopes to go to gain acceptance into an MD/PhD physician scientist program upon graduation with ambitions to one day work in global health, international public health policy, and health policy in his hometown, Chicago. To help him achieve these academic and career ambitions, Derrius won more than $1.1 million in scholarships, including a full scholarship to attend Morehouse before graduating from Chicago’s Kenwood Academy High School with a 4.2 GPA.

Derrius (pictured above) is a current Gates Millennium, Horatio Alger, Coca-Cola, and Dell Scholar. His financial-aid accomplishments have earned him the title “Million Dollar Scholar.” And he is currently a guest writer for the blog and developing a website geared toward helping high school students gain information about the financial-aid process in order to find ways to fund their higher education. He is the first in his family to attend a four-year institution and is eager to help other students who share the same background gain access to the resources that were available to him.

At Morehouse College Derrius is a Dr. John A. Hopps Research Scholar, which is a rigorous program whose focus is on allowing students in the STEM areas to perform undergraduate research with mentors, gain acceptance into summer internships, and complete PhD programs. He is currently working in a neuroscience laboratory besides a Morehouse professor researching circadian rhythms. Derrius started his research experience in 2008 as a Biochemistry Intern at Rush Presbyterian Medical Center in Chicago, IL, where he studied the synthesis of proteoglycan in bovine intervertebral disk after polysaccharide incubation. He furthered his experience at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, IL as an intern in the Department of Radiation Oncology where he performed lab techniques utilizing titanium oxide core-shell nanoparticles to cleave plasmid DNA. Derrius is also a volunteer for Jumpstart, an Americorps program for undergradutes whose focus is to increase literacy and comprehension abilities in inner-city preschoolers before they transition into elementary school.

In December, Derrius will travel to Uganda to work at the AGYA Community Center. Derrius met AGYA Co-Founder, Divinity Matovu earlier this year at the Clinton Global Initiative University Conference in Miami, Florida.

Since the first conversation I had with Divinity, I noticed a unique chemistry between us. A brief introduction quickly turned into an hour and a half long conversation about traveling, non-profit commitments, and the continent of Africa. It was during this conversation that I was introduced to Amagezi Gemaanyi and the future opportunity to serve as a volunteer, and at that moment, there was no doubt in mind that I would soon be working alongside Divinity in some capacity in Uganda.

Today, the possibilities of that conversation have materialized and I will be traveling to Uganda for two weeks during winter break. There are many reasons why I want to work with AGYA this winter break, but the most profound one being sound advice from a mentor, Dr. Walter Fluker. During a trip to South Africa Dr. Fluker told what he believed to be the most important thing leader of the 21
st century must do: “To be present”. This is essential reason I want to work with AGYA during my winter break; for there is no way to learn, no way to grow as a leader, if I am not present.

Above: Derrius and Divinity connect at the Clinton Global Initiative University Conference.

At AGYA's Community Center, Derrius plans to facilitate an intensive workshop series on the topic of ethical leadership. In implementing his curriculum, Derrius plans to engage the youth kinesthetically, verbally, and visually. This will be done through various forms of poetry, short story, video, and mind-body exercises meant to get the mind ready to think critically about the concept of leadership, especially from a young perspective. Questions such as “How Can I become a better leader?”, “What is leadership?”, “Can I, as a leader have an impact now?” frequently cross the minds of youth, yet there are seldom opportunities for young people to come together, think critically, have dialogue, and answer these questions for themselves.

These are the types of questions I hope to help the youth in Uganda answer, and it is my hope that their answers will allow me to make my own answers related to questions of leadership, more cogent.

Moving forward, Derrius hopes to serve as a liaison between AGYA and Morehouse College in order to initiate a group trip with Morehouse students to take place Fall 2011. The AGYA team looks forward to welcoming Derrius to Uganda. To learn more about Derrius' CGIU Commitment, visit: