Summer Read Celebrated with Andraka Visit


Jack Andraka speaking to students

For the past eight years, the Morris Hills Regional District has established a summer district-wide reading assignment and instituted a year-long theme relating to it. This year, the Summer Read was Breakthrough, a memoir by Jack Andraka. Students created “one-pagers” and discussed the book in class before attending an assembly at which Jack spoke.

Throughout the assembly and the book, Andraka made it clear that he never fit in with people at his school. Andraka took refuge from his long days of isolation by meticulously conducting science experiments in his parents’ basement. Blindsided by the news of his beloved uncle’s death from cancer, Andraka relentlessly pursued tougher scientific endeavors in an attempt to positively impact on the world. Andraka finally discovered the problem he would solve: creating a cheaper method of cancer detection, an issue that was very close to his heart. He worked on this for two years, to no avail, as universities and companies refused to support his research. Eventually, a Johns Hopkins University professor provided him with the tools he needed to make his dream a reality. After persistently working on this project for months, Andraka had finally done it: he created an early detection test for cancer. Not only was this test effective for both pancreatic and ovarian cancer, but it was over four hundred times more effective than the medical standards, at the fraction of the cost. Andraka, aged 15, submitted his project to Intel ISEF, the largest science and engineering competition in the United States, for which he won first place.

Students were inspired by Andraka’s journey of resilience and hard-work despite the adversity he faced. Morris Hills junior Shrey Dave felt that “the most important element of Jack’s speech was how relatable it was. His tone, way of speaking and attitude resonated extremely well with everyone because they were so similar to our experiences. This made fit very inspirational, as Jack was able to truly convey his message and emphasize key points.”

This year, the District also held an essay contest in conjunction with the Summer Read. Students were tasked with writing about what choices they would make if they could change the world and had to connect it back to Jack Andraka’s story. At the start of the school year, Mrs. Toriello shared each submission with Andraka to allow him to see what students were writing about. To her surprise, Andraka read all of the essays and had even flagged the ones that stood out most to him, which were similar to those that Mrs. Torillo selected. Together, they declared the winners: Olivia Duong and Ishu Kansal from Morris Hills and Olivia Greenberg from Morris Knolls.

Mrs. Toriello said that, “Overall, I was very pleased with the selection and the assembly. What I was most pleased about was the effort Jack put into getting to know our students. He really took time to talk to them, ask about their future plans, and make recommendations and suggestions for resources.”

Teachers and administration with Jack Andraka