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A Hometown Hero to Aspiring Engineers

During her sophomore year at North Carolina A&T University, Tisa Gill received a scholarship created by an alumnus to help engineering students from the Washington, DC, area. She went on to earn a B.S. in mechanical engineering and landed a job as a patent examiner for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, reviewing and approving patent applications for the federal government. After a stint at the Naval Air Systems Command and a detour to snag a master’s degree in engineering management from the George Washington University, she worked at Keane Federal Systems as an information technology project manager responsible for implementing a government enterprise system at the FBI.

“She’s my poster child,” says Anthony “TJ” Jackson, the A&T graduate who created the scholarship at North Carolina A&T University in 1990 to help kids from his hometown area. “I’ve always believed that a person should give back to the next generation,” says Jackson, a defense systems testing and evaluation expert in APL’s Global Engagement Department. “I had been supporting the A&T Alumni Giving campaigns since I graduated in 1983, but it occurred to me that I could do better, and I thought a scholarship in my name would be a great idea.”

“Typically scholarships are named after people that are much older,” he adds. “And I wanted to be a trailblazer and let alumni know that it can be done by anybody willing to put forth the effort to establish one.” The Anthony “TJ” Jackson Electrical Engineering Scholarship offers up to $1,000 per year to disadvantaged students entering the field of electrical engineering. Applicants must have a minimum 2.5 grade point average and submit two letters of recommendation. Jackson intentionally established the grade point average to reach students who might not be eligible for merit-based awards. Over almost two decades, the scholarship has helped scores of students. “In some instances, that scholarship of $500 or $1,000 has made the difference between a student attending college or staying at home,” Jackson said.

As a graduating senior, he did not have such worries. He was recruited by A&T to play baseball and received an engineering scholarship. “I was always a tinkerer, and I loved putting together model cars and doing science experiments,” says Jackson, who was born and raised in Washington, DC, and attended Bunker Hill Elementary, Bertie Backus Junior High, and Theodore Roosevelt High schools. But, then again, it could have just been in his blood. His father, who died when Jackson was 12, had a degree in electrical engineering.

Jackson spends many hours as a speaker and mentor to pre-college students in the Maryland MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Achievement) program. He is a science fair judge for the NAACP ACT-SO (Academic, Cultural, Technological, and Scientific Olympics) program and is a judge and supporter of the National Engineers Week “Future Cities Competition.” He also serves as a mentor to five undergraduate engineering students at A&T. “I touch base with them on a weekly basis, keeping them on the right path,” he says. “I really think that everybody—the young professional and the seasoned veteran—should reach back and give what [they] can in some kind of way; if only just to give the students a snapshot of the real working world or provide words of encouragement.”