O’Melveny To Honor 12 Los Angeles Students with Warren Christopher Scholarships

May 31, 2016


LOS ANGELES, CA--May 31, 2016--O’Melveny has selected 12 exceptional students to receive the 2016 Warren Christopher Scholarships, marking the 22nd year the international law firm has provided scholarships to promising, economically challenged students from Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) high schools. The scholarship awards ceremony, which is hosted by O’Melveny & Myers LLP and is open to the members of the media, will be held on June 2, 2016.

This year’s keynote speaker is a first for the program. Elham Ardestani, an associate at McDermott Will & Emery, is the first Warren Christopher Scholar to join the Scholarships’ Board. Ardestani was chosen as a Warren Christopher Scholar in 2000, which she credits for setting her up for success, and now supports the newest class of Scholars as a mentor.

While most scholarships are awarded to students in their senior year of high school, the Warren Christopher Scholarship program is unique in recognizing rising academic stars in the tenth grade. Each scholar receives a US$20,000 scholarship, payable at US$5,000 per year during the four years of college. The goal of the program is to motivate the scholars to excel throughout high school—despite often crushing adversity—and to attend and graduate from college. The students use the scholarship funds to pay college tuition and for other educational expenses.

The 22-year-old scholarship program is named in honor of the former US Secretary of State and former Chairman of O’Melveny, a tireless champion of higher education opportunities for disadvantaged students. The Warren Christopher Scholarship program represents a commitment by O’Melveny to these exceptional high school students to support them during their college careers, and is managed by the Warren Christopher Scholarship Committee and the California Community Foundation in Los Angeles. To date, the program has awarded more than 200 exceptional LAUSD students with four-year college scholarships.

Many of the scholars in the past have attended high schools with exceptionally high drop-out rates or have lived in homeless shelters, foster care, or circumstances ravaged by drugs, violence, and extreme poverty. Despite these adversities, all but one of our scholars have graduated high school, and all but four have gone on to attend and graduate from the country’s most prestigious universities, including Yale, MIT, Brown, Duke, Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, and almost all of the UC schools. Many scholars are now teachers, public servants, doctors, and lawyers.

Here are profiles of the 2016 Warren Christopher Scholars:

Kimberly Abarca, South Gate High School

An advocate for others, Kimberly is making a difference with every project she touches. She established a Red Cross club to ensure that her community will be prepared for any disaster or emergency, and created the Helping Hands and Minds club to inform students about volunteer opportunities and internships. Kimberly also hones her advocacy skills as a member of her school’s debate club, and plans to run for student government. Academically, she has already enrolled in four college-level courses, and is at the top of her class. After high school, Kimberly hopes to pursue a dual degree in physics and mathematics from Cal Tech, and she is now developing those skills as vice president of her school’s chapter of Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement. According to Kimberly, “This scholarship means that someone believes in my capacity and determination to make a pivotal impact in the world through my mind, education, perseverance, and ambition.”

Darion Allen, King Drew Medical Magnet High School

Darion strives to break stereotypes. As a scholar, athlete, musician, and citizen of the world, Darion refuses to accept any barrier to his success. Darion is an active church member at Crusader’s Temple Church of God in Christ, plays piano for the Leimert Park Harmony Project jazz funk orchestra, and excels on King Drew High School’s baseball and track teams. He is also a member of the Black Student Union and the Gay-Straight Alliance. Darion also helps younger musicians nurture their art through the Harmony Project Expo. He has no intention of paring down his activities in college, with plans to double major in music, and technology or science. “There is no room for failure in a world that will judge a book by its cover or a man by his skin color. I am and will be successful in every aspect of my life.”

Alexis Cruz, James A. Garfield High School

When Alexis joined YMCA’s Youth and Government: Model Legislature and Court program last year, she discovered her passion for politics. Her involvement in the Associated Student Body and her school’s speech and debate programs have fed that passion and helped prepare her for a life in public service. After college, Alexis hopes to join the California state legislature to lobby for the rights of the underprivileged and underrepresented. She is “fascinated by the methods in which our democracy works,” but “even more intrigued with the notion that making a greater social change is indeed possible.” Because Alexis believes that education is the first step toward changing both her life and the lives of others, she strives to uplift and support her fellow students. “I wish to promote the importance of education amongst my peers and encourage them to pursue a higher education in order to have a prosperous fulfilling life.”

Joseph Felix-Tapia, Cesar E Chavez Learning Academy

A dedicated athlete, Joe spent last summer waking up before the crack of dawn to attend 5 a.m. workouts before football practice. This is the kind of dedication that propelled him to become a captain on the varsity team when he was just a sophomore. Joe credits his involvement in sports for his development as a person, both on and off the field. “This season of playing football really allowed me to understand the morals of the game and humbled me,” he said. “I began to have a great satisfaction knowing I had made life-long friends and we were all battling together, even if we lost.” Joe applies this same team-oriented spirit to work in his community, volunteering with Pacoima Beautiful. After high school, Joe plans to study archaeology and follow in the footsteps of his favorite archaeologist, Sarah Parcak, who Joe admires for her blending of modern technology and traditional methods in searching for lost civilizations.

Luis Angeles Galeano, New Open World Academy

“I’ve always loved sports and the happiness they bring me. Soccer may be just a game but it helps me get through life.” As a sophomore, Luis is captain of both his JV soccer and volleyball teams, and is a power forward on the basketball team. He uses the lessons he learns on the field and the court to become a stronger person. “Life has taught me to take anything thrown at me and to bounce back with strength.” In addition to the extensive time he dedicates to team sports, Luis is also the Student Council Treasurer, an active volunteer at church, a role model for his younger brothers, and a GearUp mentor. In fact, Luis had the highest Collegeboard RediStep scores of any student in the schools that GearUp serves. His counselor lauds Luis for having a “genuine love for learning, compassion for those around him and a desire to make a difference.”

Noelani Galvan, Elizabeth Learning Center

Noelani is running full speed toward accomplishing her goals. As captain of her varsity cross-country team and an active member of Student Run LA (which helps prepare students who are interested in running marathons), Noelani channels her energies into becoming the fastest female runner at her school. She plans to take that same dedication and endurance to college, where she hopes to pursue a career in social work, with a focus on helping children in the foster care system. Her principal described Noelani as “a special individual who has managed to give all to others and still achieve personal excellence. She embodies grit and selflessness.” Despite her grueling academic and extracurricular schedule, Noelani regularly helps out her family and volunteers at the Salvation Army.

Rose Griesgraber, Reseda High School

An experienced traveler, Rose has a deeply ingrained desire to preserve our natural resources. “Throughout my childhood, the places I lived put me in touch with all types of environments and showed me the beauty and power of nature,” and this passion for the environment has permeated Rose’s education. Her teacher calls her a “true scholar who learns course material completely.” Not only is she already taking college courses in biotechnology, she also participates in the monitoring and preservation of the Santa Barbara Channel and Channel Islands, and has sequenced segments of Rockfish mitochondrial DNA to contribute to an international bank of DNA barcodes. Rose has even become qualified as a Channel Islands Junior Park Ranger. When she is not helping save the wonders of the world for future generations, Rose plays tennis, for which she received a scholar-athlete award, and is studying art.

Guillermo Hercules, University High School

Guillermo will not let anything stand in his way. In eighth grade, he was nominated to attend the STEM summer camp, which provides courses in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. In order to attend, Guillermo took it upon himself to organize a fundraiser and find donors to cover the entire cost of the camp. That same initiative propelled him into a National Youth Leadership Forum Award for Accomplishment. It’s no wonder that Guillermo’s math teacher describes his most prominent qualities as “his drive and self-motivation.” Outside of the classroom, Guillermo participates in speech and debate, and is a member of his school’s cross-country and swim teams. He is also active in his church ministry outreach. Guillermo plans to major in physiology, and pursue a career in medicine. Just for fun, Guillermo would like to audition for “Survivor.” Something tells us that he would do quite well.

Elizabeth Lopez, James Monroe High School

It is rare that a tenth grader would even know the phrase “moot court,” much less be prepared to defend a constitutional argument before a panel of practicing attorneys. But Elizabeth is one of a kind. For her work in the Mock Trial Seminar, she was named the “Best Defendant Attorney” in L.A. County. As a member of her school’s speech and debate teams, Elizabeth feels comfortable speaking out about important issues. “It gives me a confidence I’ve never had before and the belief that I can one day become an advocate for women who are victims of domestic violence.” Elizabeth applies that ardor to community service, volunteering with the Key Club and with Meet Each Need with Dignity to serve those in need of basic necessities like food and clothing. She also devotes her time to working with United Readers, helping non-native English speakers to read more fluently.

Ana-Mariana Sotomayor Palomino, Belmont High School

Ana-Mariana is a woman with a plan. She hopes to graduate as valedictorian with a slew of AP classes under her belt, and then earn a master’s degree in broadcast journalism. And she is well on her way to achieving that goal, acting as an editor for her school’s newspaper for the past two years and maintaining top grades while a juggling a host of responsibilities. Ana-Mariana views her chosen path in journalism as a way to shine light on the prejudices against immigrants. She is passionate about helping others, acting as a mentor at Closing the Gap and GearUp 4 LA, and as a role model to her younger sister. Ana-Mariana sums up her zeal for making a difference best, saying, “Whenever I see a problem within my home, within my community, I do all that I can to change the situation. I spend hours every week devoting myself to these programs in hopes that it is making a change in the lives of the students in my community.”

Sheila Milon, Marshall High School

Sometimes you just know that a person is destined to change the world. Sheila Milon is one of those people. An active member of the Interfaith Youth Council of Los Angeles and Muslims and Jews Inspiring Change Leadership Council, Sheila is working to build bridges between people of different faiths and backgrounds. Her work earned her a full scholarship to the Young Women’s Political Leadership Program in Washington, D.C., which seeks to train the female leaders of tomorrow. Sheila hopes to build on this training to help develop policies that expand women’s rights in Muslim countries. “I have made a promise to myself that I would defend those who cannot defend themselves,” she says. Sheila also is involved with several community-service-oriented extracurriculars, including UNICEF, Alzheimer’s Awareness, Youth Against Poverty, and Best Buddies, a program to help students with special needs. But Sheila says the volunteer work that has had the biggest impact on her is tutoring children at a homeless shelter.

Kyung Park, UCLA Community School

Kyung has always had a voracious appetite for learning, which has helped catapult her to the top of her class. When she was only in sixth grade, Kyung was already asking her counselor for vocabulary words to study for the SAT. This drive has led Kyung to excel academically across the board, including in advanced courses at Los Angeles City College. But it was not until the founder of Diablo Comics gave a speech at her school that Kyung found her true passion for art, which ignited new lifelong goals. “When I think about the prospect of contributing my art to society, I become so eager to get out into the world and prove myself!” Kyung is a founder of her school’s very first art club, which she created to show the community the transformative power of art. Kyung also set up a “Coding for Kids” program for elementary students to help expose them to technology and prepare them for a path to success. Her counselor describes Kyung as “an exceptional young woman who seems to operate with grace and fortitude and sets her own standards for excellence.”

About O’Melveny

O’Melveny’s clients shape markets, set precedents, and break boundaries. They are stalwarts and innovators, the names you trust and the next big thing. And for more than a century, O’Melveny has been right beside them, kicking down walls and putting up defenses to help our clients achieve their most important goals. With approximately 700 lawyers in 15 offices worldwide guided by the principles of excellence, leadership, and citizenship, we uphold a tradition of treating our clients’ challenges and opportunities as our own. What do you want to achieve? For the answers, please visit www.omm.com.


Julie Fei