O’Melveny Awards Warren Christopher Scholarships to 15 Outstanding Los Angeles Students
July 8, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
LOS ANGELES—July 8, 2022—Fifteen outstanding Los Angeles Unified School District 10th graders received US$20,000 college scholarships at the annual Warren Christopher Scholarship awards ceremony held on June 27th at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
For 28 years, O’Melveny has awarded Warren Christopher Scholarships to exceptional LAUSD sophomores who embody the spirit of the late O’Melveny Chairman and former US Secretary of State, a tireless champion of higher education opportunities for disadvantaged students. This year’s Scholars were selected from 128 nominees whose schools recognized their academic promise, record of community service, and financial need.
“This year’s class of Scholars is a remarkable group of talented students who have overcome a great deal. Each of their stories and accomplishments serve as an inspiration and it is an honor to support them as they strive for success. We hope the scholarships and our program will encourage these special individuals to continue pursuing their goals,” said O’Melveny partner Cassandra Seto, who led the 2022 Scholar selection process.
Since its inception, the Warren Christopher Scholarship Program has awarded over US$7 million in college scholarships to nearly 300 Los Angeles-area students. The Program recognizes rising academic stars in the 10th grade with the goal of motivating them to excel throughout high school and to attend and graduate from college. Each Scholar receives US$5,000 a year during their four years in college to help cover tuition and other educational expenses.
“It is an honor to support our Scholars who have achieved remarkable academic and personal success despite facing numerous obstacles, especially during the past two years. We hope that this endorsement of their future will make a lasting impact and help them attain the lifelong success they deserve,” said O’Melveny partner and Warren Christopher Scholarship Committee Chair Matt Kline.
Warren Christopher Scholars have gone on to attend and graduate from some of the country’s most prestigious universities, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Stanford, MIT, Duke, and almost all of the UC schools. Many Scholars are now teachers, public servants, doctors, and lawyers.
The Warren Christopher Scholarship Program reflects O’Melveny’s commitment to support promising high school students during their college careers. The Program is managed by the Warren Christopher Scholarship Committee and the California Community Foundation in Los Angeles.
Below are profiles of the 2022 Warren Christopher Scholars:
Esther D.I. Abraham
King-Drew Senior High Medicine and Science Magnet
Esther Abraham is a master of adaptation. Having lived all over the world, seen homes lost to war and fire, and dealt with a tragedy that changed her family, Esther finds solace and freedom in books and education. In fact, her English teacher calls her “highly intelligent and well-read. She exhibits a genuine intellectual curiosity about the world.” That same curiosity propels Esther to volunteer with the Key Club, Women’s Leadership Program, WASC students, Ladies of the Bridge Builders, and Boys and Girls Club. Her counselor said Esther is as committed to her academics as she is to serving her community. “Through her activism, Esther promotes awareness in breast cancer and about human trafficking, she participates in community clean-ups on a regular basis, and provides socio-emotional mentorships to other young black scholars.”
Marquez High School – Huntington Park Institute of Applied Medicine
“As a cancer survivor, I know first-hand what it is to struggle and choose to survive. I choose to make the most out of every opportunity.” Mayte Alonso does just that. After spending much of middle school in treatment, Mayte has made up for lost time. She plays soccer and runs in cross country, served in top leadership roles for her high school in both ninth and tenth grade, and participates in her school’s philanthropy committee. One of her teachers describes Mayte as diligent and determined. “She is one of those students who truly leaves an everlasting mark, not only for her sheer brilliance, but for her humility and charismatic nature. She is taking all of the challenges that life has thrown her way and utilized them to grow.”
Downtown Magnets High School
Elva Chen lost her mom to cancer when she was just seven years old. With that life-defining event, Elva set her sights on the neurology field. “When visiting my mom in the hospital, I used to watch the nurses in awe. They inspired me to enter a field that cares for people the way they cared for my mom.” Elva plans to spend her summer volunteering at hospitals. But she is already dedicating her time to helping others. For more than a year, she’s taught English to students in Ukraine and writes letters of appreciation to medical staff with the California Scholarship Federation. Her English teacher describes Elva as “devoted to helping others. She affects all those around her with her positive energy and enthusiasm.”
Abida J. Chowdhury
Orthopaedic Hospital Medical Magnet High School
“I consider myself to be a poet, academic enthusiast, art connoisseur, and a young woman who wants to go far in life.” Abida Chowdhury is already well on her way. Her writing has been published in an anthology and she has released a poetry book of her own. Wanting to share that passion with her peers, Abida started a poetry club at her school and participates in an emerging writers fellowship. As a sophomore, she has already logged hundreds of hours of community service, dedicating her time to the Black Student Union, Bring Change to Mind club, Changeist, and the LAPL Robertson Teen Council. Her school counselor said, “In my 17 years as a school counselor, Abida is the most accomplished 10th grader I’ve had regarding extra-curricular activities, community service, internships, and fellowships.”
Horace Mann UCLA Community School
Since the age of five, Malcolm Clayborne has participated in the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Youth Leadership Program. He credits the program with providing stepping stones throughout his life, to help him develop into the type of young man that gives back to his community. Malcolm does just that as part of the Community Coalition, which he calls his family, as they come together to build and improve their community and advocate for the rights of others. Malcolm is also very passionate about video games and theater, and dreams of being a game designer and performing. His math teacher calls Malcolm an “exceptional young man. I am in awe of his work ethic and positive attitude.”
Diego Rivera Learning Complex - Green Design STEAM Academy
When Gisselle Delgado-Velarde describes her high school, she calls it a place where she can prosper and where she feels empowered. That is evident by her academic achievements. She was student of the year as a freshman and was nominated again as a sophomore. As part of the STEM Leadership committee, Gisselle met monthly with her teachers and other student representatives to plan the environmental fair projects and activities for the entire student body. She is also a member of the East Asian Origins club, where she learns about the language, people and culture through various activities. Gisselle is involved in Gear Up to prepare her for college. Her academic counselor said that “Gisselle learned at a young age the power of resilience. When she encounters an obstacle, she will rise above the challenge.”
RFK – UCLA Community School
“I know how difficult it can be to grow up in my neighborhood and I want to be able to lift up others. Helping others gives me a sense of belonging and purpose.” Bryan Hernandez believes a small act of kindness can make a big impact. As a math tutor, volunteer organizing K-pop events or dancer at Mexican folk festivals, Bryan strives to put a smile on someone else’s face. He wears that small smile himself even during his long distance runs in track and field and cross country and while taking six college classes as part of the SuperGrad College Program. Bryan said, “education is the thing I value most in this world.” That passion pushed him to join the Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics (BEAM), which has set his goal on a career in math to make new technologies more accessible.
Diamond M. Luna
South Gate High School
After losing her mother to cancer, Diamond Luna has set her sights on becoming an oncologist to spare other families the experience that dominated much of her life. She is already enrolled in South Gate’s Senior High Public Service/Biomed magnet program and participated in the Future Medical Leaders program to help propel her into a medical career. “The contact with the doctors and nurses during my mother’s illness fueled my passion for medicine.” Diamond also participates in Gear Up, which has exposed her to various careers in the medical field. Her academic counselor called Diamond independent, resilient, and determined. “Diamond has advocated for herself, sought out opportunities, and maintained a positive attitude. I know she will be successful throughout her life…because she is driven.”
Narbonne High School Math & Science Magnet
Preston Onuselogu is aiming to save the planet. With a clear goal of earning a degree in environmental science and a master’s in environmental engineering, Preston wants to develop new technology to combat the effects of climate change. He is already honing those skills as a member of the Robotics and Eco clubs, which are just two of the six clubs he participates in (the others being Academic Decathlon, UNICE, Key Club and Class of 2024 club). “We have to look into the past in order to change the future. We can still protect the world if we act not as a solo unit, but as a mass of people unified by the same belief.” As a founder of the Eco-club, Preston organized his peers to clean the school’s garden area and participated in community food distribution to families in need. His teacher said, “very few students commit themselves wholeheartedly to learning and growth with the same tenacity as Preston.”
Juan Daniel Oyarzabal
Los Angeles Virtual Academy #1
With the support of his brothers and sisters, Juan Daniel Oyarzabal puts as much effort as possible into everything he does. That includes schoolwork, sports, writing and friendships. During the pandemic, he put that same effort into learning coding, which has fueled a desire to learn computer science in college. “What I admire, respect, and appreciate about Juan is that he takes initiative, not shortcuts. He understands the value of learning, pursuing his personal interests with passion and integrity,” his teacher said. Even though Juan transferred schools during the pandemic, he found a way to give back to his community by serving as a coach for Marathon Kids, tending to the garden in front of his school, and volunteering as a math and literacy tutor during middle school. He’s also a talented artist, using his skill to illustrate a comic book that helped detail Korean-American culture.
Sylmar Academy Biotech Health Magnet
“The disparities in the quality of healthcare service between communities is striking, and I hope one day to provide quality care, regardless of someone’s financial status.” With an ultimate goal of becoming a neurosurgeon, with an emphasis on research into human behavior and brain functions, Kimberly Ruvalcaba is already climbing the ladder into the medical field. After seeing the name “Sylmar Biotech Health” on someone else’s Zoom identification, Kimberly took it upon herself to research the school and advocate for a transfer to take advantage of its health and engineering-focused electives and medical simulation lab. Within just a month at her new school, Kimberly tackled her next challenge, enrolling in community college classes through Gear Up. She has now completed six college courses with straight As, which is even more impressive since she learned English as a second language only three years prior. Kimberly is also working on a home health aide certification and is a mentee in the mentorship and advocacy program run by the teaching health clinic at UCLA.
Arleta High School
“My dream to become a lawyer stems from a desire to offer others the voice they lack. I hope to engage in organizations that correct injustices and serve oppressed people in our communities.” Jaime Salazar already is fulfilling that role of speaking for the voiceless as a peer advocate at his school’s well-being center, where he provides youth-centered health and wellness education, and as a member of the WeUpstanders, which is an anti-bullying organization. He wants to turn that same support he gives others on a one-on-one basis into a podcast so he can help combat hate on a larger scale. His teacher describes Jaime’s core principles as “optimism, diligence, perseverance, and a growth mindset. Jaime is committed to exercising his voice and supporting others.” He is also is a member of the Key Club, Arleta High School Site Counsel, and the Black Thumb Farm, where he’s learning about sustainable gardening and helping the environment.
Yosharelli Santillano Granados
Middle College High School
Yosharelli Santillano Granados defines herself as a difference maker. With violence and substance abuse permeating her neighborhood, Yosharelli is determined to rise above “a cycle of failure.” Seeing younger students struggle after two years of online learning, Yosharelli shared her love of reading through United Voices of Literacy as a weekly volunteer. She serves as captain of the track and field team, is a red belt kick boxer, and helped take her volleyball team to the Los Angeles City Section Division 5 Championship. Her track coach said, “She doesn’t see the point in doing the minimum. There is too much to accomplish and too many obstacles she is well aware of. She is an inspiration.”
Vladovic Harbor Teacher Preparation Academy
Determined to be a cycle breaker, Anthony Sarceno doesn’t want his future defined by the “drug dealing, graffiti, and death” that punctuate his surroundings. In middle school, Anthony sought out every opportunity that came his way, joining the National Junior Honor Society, tutoring other students, and studying Muay Thai. He also was an instrumental part of the robotics competition team, which took second place in the Horizon Hydrogen Grand Prix and qualified for the Southern California Regional competition. After being accepted to the Dr. Richard A. Vladovic Harbor Teacher Preparation Academy (VHTPA), Anthony joined the Black Student Union, Science Ambassadors, Criminology Club, and the basketball team. This semester, he also focused on community service, looking for opportunities to help the homeless and bolster his community’s recycling efforts. “I know this is just the beginning for me, but I’ll be the one to break this cycle of fate and mold my own destiny.”
Fatina Valseca Aldana
RFK – New Open World Academy
Fatima Valseca Aldana grew up in Guatemala attending political rallies, “singing to the catchy jingles and memorizing my father’s speeches” as her father campaigned for office. Those lessons she learned as a six year old stuck with Fatima, who recognizes the importance of having good leaders. Seeing those same leadership skills in herself, she joined the student council and California Scholarship Foundation, mentored and tutored younger students through the Coca Cola Valued Leadership and the Gear Up 4 LA peer mentor programs, and plays with the varsity tennis team. Her English teacher highlighted Fatima’s extraordinary speaking skills, “Her delivery is captivating. She has this particular cadence in which the audience automatically gravitates toward her as she speaks.” Fatima was also accepted to the highly competitive SuperGrad program, where she takes high school and college courses simultaneously.
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