O’Melveny Awards Warren Christopher Scholarships to 16 Remarkable Los Angeles StudentsOctober 13, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
LOS ANGELES—October 13, 2021—Sixteen outstanding Los Angeles Unified School District 10th graders will each receive $20,000 college scholarships at the annual Warren Christopher Scholarship awards ceremony October 20th at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
For 27 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 123 nominees whose schools recognized their academic promise, record of community service, and financial need.
“Our 2021 Scholar Class is a truly impressive group. Each student’s story is remarkable and their drive to succeed is inspirational. It is an honor to support these ambitious students as they continue to strive for excellence. We hope this vote of confidence in their talent and determination will encourage them to keep dreaming big and help them achieve their goals,” said O’Melveny partner Cassandra Seto, who led the 2021 Scholar selection process.
Since its inception, the Warren Christopher Scholarship Program has awarded over $7 million in college scholarships to more than 250 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 $5,000 a year during their four years in college to help cover tuition and other educational expenses. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Scholars have also received additional support.
“We were proud to provide crucial emergency support to our Scholars during the last 18 months—helping them find meaningful work, overcome financial challenges raised by remote learning, address pressing housing and healthcare issues, and stay connected with the Scholar community. We look forward to seeing our Scholars at our October 20 celebration,” 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 2021 Warren Christopher Scholars:
RFK – Los Angeles High School of the Arts
Athena Aguilar is laying a strong path for her future. With her eyes set on studying neurology or neuroscience at a top university, Athena has applied for the Children’s Hospital LA Virtual Camp to explore multiple healthcare careers. This is on top of her work with the Heart of Los Angeles Bridges program, where she interacts with students who have similar interests, and the Bresee C2C program, which provides her skills to market herself for jobs down the road. “The fact that Athena is enrolled in a program that is designed to support a successful transition to college is evidence that she is focused. Athena is, without a doubt, a well-rounded individual shaping herself to become a model member of our society,” her English teacher said.
Joshua I. Alvarado
South Gate Senior High School
Joshua Alvarado is shooting for the stars. Literally. With his eyes set on NASA, Joshua wants to study mechanical engineering at Stanford. And he is already soaking up every STEAM-related opportunity he can get, rising to vice president of the MESA club, participating in robotics and joining the academic decathlon. That’s on top of taking three community college courses since middle school, playing on the varsity tennis team, and serving others through the Key Club and his church. He’s even made the most of being quarantined, picking up coding skills and growing his cooking skills “by leaps and bounds.” Joshua’s English teacher says he fulfills all of these obligations “with pride and dedication.”
Michelle Artiga Rivera
Girls Academic Leadership Academy
In fifth grade, Michelle Rivera became aware of the importance of safe neighborhoods and witnessed how injustices within her community served as barriers for positive change. So she set her sights on making her community a better place. “When I realized that I could use my skills and background, activism began feeling like my purpose.” So Michelle began volunteering with Sunrise LA Youth (SLAY), an organization for LA youth to fight climate change. This organization gave Michelle insight into local politics for the first time. She started volunteering with one campaign, which turned into 14 campaigns, every single one of which resulted in a victory between December 2020-February 2021. “As I’ve continued with my activism, I’ve begun to feel like the work I do is more like a duty rather than a choice.”
Bryan Beckett Bravo
University High School Charter
Since the age of five, Bryan Bravo has had a passion for classical music. In middle school, he joined the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra, one of the best in California. When faced with a severe eye condition that has left his vision hazy, Bryan pushed himself to become more creative and developed an even greater passion for achieving his goals. He said that practicing his instruments helped relieve his stress and allowed him to give his best no matter what challenges he faces. Bryan wants to double major in music and criminal justice so he can help make neighborhoods, like the ones his family is from, become safer for those who live there. In 10 years, he either wants to be an outstanding DEA agent of conducting the New York Philharmonic.
Kiara G. Belcher
Grant High School
“My family, friends, and community mean the world to me. I do my absolute best to help where I can.” That desire to help others was instilled at an early age in Kiara Belcher, who started to working with her aunt’s nonprofit organization in preschool. C.L.A.S.S.Y. is a program that seeks to improve the self-esteem of young people. Over the years, Kiara raised money for breast cancer, autism, and the March of Dimes, while leading workshops that focus on anti-bullying, substance abuse, and positive body image. In addition to helping other preteens, this experience gave Kiara confidence in public speaking, landing her a panelist position to discuss racial justice with the Sacramento Police Department. Her counselor called her “a true example of what this community needs, as she is passionate about educating others and raising awareness to social justice issues.”
Vladovic Harbor Teacher Preparation Academy
Jokim Bryant strives to be a confident, smiling, protective leader in all he does. Whether that is by mentoring young men through the Kappa League or supporting black men in leadership and entrepreneurship skills through the Hidden Genius Project, Jokim says his goal is to make others feel good. He also participates in the California Scholarship Federation, Associated Student Body, Black Student Union, South East Asian Club, and varsity debate. Throughout all of these activities, Jokim has learned how to listen to others’ perspectives and how to share his own voice. He took those lessons to start his own business, iAm Poetry, which he created to give people an opportunity to express themselves. His Hidden Genius Project counselor said, “To say that Jokim embodies everything we hope to see in our young people is far too simple a generalization. He often stands out as a compassionate, caring leader amongst his peers, and consistently serves as a beacon for others to find their path.”
Martha Garcia Salinas
South East High School
Art is a means of escape for Martha Garcia, who enjoys spending hours figuring out the composition and range of colors. But as a caregiver to her infant niece, that kind of time to pursue her passion is hard to come by. She still makes the time to learn new drawing techniques to turn blank pieces of paper into art full of vibrancy and meaning. That is on top of taking a summer math program to qualify for a more advanced math class her senior year, and maintaining a full schedule of honors and AP classes. Her college advisor calls Martha “one of the quickest-witted, insightful, and tenacious young ladies I have met in my 19 years as a counselor.” And she highlighted Martha’s resiliency as her greatest strength.
Lana E. Garrido
RFK – Ambassador School of Global Leadership
Lana Garrido has always had an unquenchable thirst for learning. Lately that passion has found a home in psychology, allowing Lana to help others through her own experiences. While taking a college-level course in psychology, she learned that everyone’s story is valid and everyone has the opportunity to lead and inspire others. So she has taken every opportunity to hear others’ stories, whether that’s through volunteering at a nursing home, as a group leader at her church, as a tutor for younger students, or as a library assistant. Her teacher commended her ability to “create a better school environment” and “foster community and spirit at school,” specifically highlighting how deeply Lana cares for her fellow students.
Sotomayor Arts & Sciences Magnet High School
Alejandro Herrera has always viewed school as his home away from home. Self-proclaimed quiet and shy, Alejandro found comfort in volunteering with his Leadership group, helping plan dances, fundraisers, school spirit events, and graduations. He channeled that into a role with the City of Los Angeles Department of Parks & Recreation, as well as becoming ASB president. “Very rarely do we select freshmen to be in our school’s Leadership class, but from the first day, and for the past two years, Alejandro has shown to have fantastic problem solving skills, a ‘can do’ attitude, and is able to accomplish his projects and events while working on a team,” his Leadership advisor said.
Yahir U. Joven
Cesar E. Chavez – Social Justice Humanitas Academy
Not only does Yahir excel academically, he makes time to tutor other students in math, work a landscaping job, play for a soccer club, and volunteer with a group of civic activists. But what impressed his counselor most is Yahir’s willingness to step outside his comfort zone and “seek out opportunities that will allow him to mature into his own self-development and self-actualization,” including an EduCare program designed to build students’ confidence and public communication skills. Yahir plans to continue challenging himself by pursuing a career in the STEM field.
Sylmar Biotech Health & Engineering Magnet High School
It’s not often that you discover your life path at 14. But for Adriana Ochoa, she found her future in civil engineering and architecture at the start of high school. “I’m interested in expressing my creativity through structures and I’m inspired by structures from different countries. I believe with the right structure and materials I can make an environmental impact.” As a freshmen, Adriana joined her school’s engineering team and SkillsUSA team, which provides an opportunity for hands-on project experience. In addition to those clubs, Adriana participates in Model United Nations, the drill team, volleyball, and is captain of the basketball team. She also has volunteered for the past two years with the Penny Lane Foster Center, coordinating an annual event to provide food, clothing, and hygiene supplies. Even during COVID-19, which prevented the same kind of holiday event, Adriana made sure families received individual donation bags.
Susan Miller Dorsey High School
Simya Smith has already picked out two college majors (communications and education) and a minor (English), saying, “I aspire to educate many people to make them more aware and accepting of the faces of different cultures, backgrounds, traditions, and identities.” Simya found support from a wide variety of people as she participated in cheer, school band, book club, Teen Court, and tutored younger students. “That was the first time I truly realized how important it is to treat people around you with kindness and compassion. It can change their lives for the better.” Simya pays that kindness forward by collecting canned foods and resources from her neighborhood to donate them to those in need.
Euh Suh Lee
John Marshall High School
“I’m not sure when Euh Suh gets time to eat, sleep, or study given the fact she involved in just about everything,” her college counselor wrote. And that is not an exaggeration. Affectionately called Eunnie, Euh Suh founded multiple clubs aimed at making her fellow students’ lives better. The Laugh More Stress Less Club provides a safe place for students struggling with anxiety or depression, and the Help Youngsters Learn club helps low-income elementary students with free tutoring and school supplies. She also volunteers at the Alexandria House (a transitional home for women and children escaping domestic violence), Morning Star Education Center, Youth Drug Alcohol Prevention Leadership, and SAS Leadership and plays JV soccer. “Through this work, Eunnie has acquired impressive team building skills, leadership, and organizational skills,” her counselor wrote.
Narbonne High School – Humanities & Arts Academy of Los Angeles
With her eyes set on becoming a lawyer, Ryan Upston is already honing her skills on her school’s varsity debate team. Debate has provided her a platform to learn about current events, be able to see both sides of tough issues, and build life skills. In fact, Ryan says the skills she has learned on the debate team equipped her with the skills to talk about racial injustice and possible long-term solutions. Ryan serves as a mentor and leader for other debaters, coaching them for competitions, judging practice rounds and providing feedback. Ryan’s teacher said that she “expresses a significant unsuperficial interest in a public service career” and that her “commitment to debate is an undeniable testimony to that.”
Downtown Magnets High School
Moving from a small farming community in Southern China to Los Angeles just two years ago, Zhangyang Wu started high school with severe vision challenges and less-than-proficient English skills. But he didn’t let either of those obstacles deter him. Zhangyang formed an English club with more than 20 students to practice his skills and then taught what he learned to elementary students at the Chinatown Service Center. He also studied higher level calculus, taking courses online to further his passion for the mathematical field with the dream of becoming a math professor in the future. Zhangyang is involved with ASB, is president of the Chinatown Teen Council, and is a co-chair of pep rallies and the Lunar New Year committee, which brought more than 150 participants with diverse voices and perspectives to his school.
Chatsworth Charter High School
Mohammed Zaman moved to Los Angeles from Bangladesh just three years ago and already has joined a local soccer team, become a leader in school clubs—including historian of his class and treasurer of Key Club—and took first prize for his business plan in the NFTE business competition. “For the first time in a long while, I felt settled in a community, so I decided to give back to the community that was nurturing me.” Mohammed organized street cleanups and assembled hand-sanitizing kits for the homeless in his neighborhood. That foreshadows his plans for a future career in public health. “I wish to combine my passion for science and my commitment to helping the people in my community. I want to go to work every day knowing that I will be making a difference in people’s lives and that I can bring a smile to their faces.”
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