O’Melveny to Honor 13 Los Angeles Students with Warren Christopher Scholarships

May 19, 2014

Julie Fei
O’Melveny & Myers LLP

LOS ANGELES, CA--MAY 19, 2014--To celebrate the 20th year of providing scholarships to promising, economically challenged students from Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) high schools, the Warren Christopher Scholarship Committee has selected a record 13students to receive the 2014 Warren Christopher Scholarships. 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 Thursday, May 22, starting at 11 am at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

While most scholarships are awarded to students in their senior year of high school, the 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 20-year-old scholarship program named in honor of the former US Secretary of State and former Chairman of O’Melveny is a lasting memorial to Christopher, a tireless champion of higher education opportunities for disadvantaged students. The 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 Christopher Scholarship Committee and the California Community Foundation in Los Angeles. To date, the program has awarded 182 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, 100% of our scholars have graduated high school, and all but six 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 2014 Warren Christopher Scholars:

Marvie Alcarez
If ever there were a person who embodied determination, it is Marvie Alcarez. Up at 5 a.m. every morning, she starts her day with JROTC, maintains a stellar GPA in AP classes, attends cheer events, and dances at least two hours each day. At the Performing Arts Center where she dances, Marvie also volunteers, helping kids feel better about themselves, and she has created a club where everyone can feel like they belong. Teachers laud her “gift of empathy,” saying that “she cares about others (both those she knows and those who are strangers to her).” Marvie hopes to become a psychiatrist to help children and adults find comfort and support, and to help them create a better future for themselves.

Kensharra Davis
Kensharra Davis draws her strength and inspiration from her family. She plans to carry that same strength of spirit throughout her life as she pursues a career as a pediatrician. At school, in addition to her demonstrated commitment to giving back to the community, Kensharra’s “determination and motivation set her apart from her peers.” Kensharra currently volunteers at the California Hospital Medical Center in the labor-and-delivery ward and walks abandoned animals at the Furbaby Animal Rescue Center. It is fitting that in her spare time Kensharra has also been a cheerleader since her goal is to uplift others.

Mirna El-khalily
It’s not often that someone decides on a career at age two, but that is when Mirna El-khalily first discovered her passion for medicine. She has now set her sights on studying biochemistry and becoming a pediatrician. “Like a poet’s love for words or a musician’s love for rhythm, my love is directed towards the sciences,” she says. In addition to her studies at school, she participates in Science Fairs and Science Bowls and volunteers at LAC+USC Hospital, helping with patient care and playing with young children in the pediatric ward. Mirna also volunteers with the Bravo California Scholarship Federation and takes part in the Random Acts of Kindness Club.

Marbrisa Flores
Marbrisa Flores speaks with wisdom that belies her age. Drawn to careers and activities that strive to help other people, what Marbrisa wants most is to be “appreciative of the things I have and cherish the people around me.” That attitude drives her everyday life, from her studies to her extensive volunteer work. In her free time, she volunteers with her church, tutors elementary school kids, and delivers lunch to the homeless with her friends. She also participates in several clubs dedicated to helping others including the World Vision Club, Red Cross Club, and Students Run LA.

Jesus Franco
“My struggles have molded the person I am today. And for that I’m thankful.” Jesus Franco has let the obstacles he has faced throughout his life define him in the best possible ways, and it shows. Teachers praise him for striving for excellence in all areas of his life. Jesus is an accomplished member of the Debate League, a leader in his school through the Associated Student Body and the Key Club, an athlete in cross-country and track-and-field, and an active volunteer among a host of activities. He hopes to pursue a career as an immigration lawyer to help families in his community.

Gabriel González
Gabriel González uses his strong cultural background and language skills to help others. His teachers call him “a great peer to his classmates” and “an avid volunteer outside the classroom.” In addition to his studies, Gabriel volunteers with a teen book club and works with the elderly at a senior center, serving lunch and teaching an origami class in Spanish. He also holds leadership positions in several clubs to help fellow students express their individuality, including Art Club, Baking Club, the Astro-Physics Club, and the Science Bowl. After attending college, Gabriel has his sights set on attending “one of the greatest medical schools” in order to give back to the community.

Jesus Loaiza
Jesus Loaiza truly values education and has made huge sacrifices to put his studies first and attend a local Los Angeles-area high school. Teachers describe Jesus as “the perfect student,” with an “extremely curious mind” and an “amazing work ethic.” In addition to his classwork, he is involved in numerous activities at school. He plays soccer and participates in the Bike Club and JROTC. He also is the founding member of the Franklin High Chess Club and volunteers feeding the homeless after school. After college, Jesus wants to start a small business to help stimulate the economy and provide jobs for unemployed workers.

Haille Lopez-McDonald
A very talented writer, Haille Lopez-McDonald wants to use her communication skills to help people suffering from mental illness, addiction, and homelessness. Haille already is demonstrating those leadership skills in school through her participation in the Associated Student Body and House of Representatives, as well as through her volunteer work with the Key Club and peer tutoring. “Her teachers rave about her performance and ability to work with her classmates as a member of a team, but also as an inspirational leader,” her counselor says.

Adilene Lorenzo
Although just a sophomore in high school, Adilene Lorenzo has been helping special needs children for much of her life. Now, after volunteering at the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation last summer, Addy is considering turning that passion into a career as a special education teacher. That same caring and dedication propels Addy in her studies, taking a bus 20 miles through L.A. traffic to attend James Monroe High School. She fills her days with honors classes, tennis practice, and academic decathlon, where she is one of the “rare sophomores” to compete on the A-team. Addy also finds time to work a few hours each week at a part-time job and to volunteer with the Key Club and Random Acts of Kindness Club.

Star Meda
With ties to a variety of cultures, Star Meda considers herself a “celebration of diversity.” Her college counselor calls Star “mature beyond her years” and says her “positive demeanor radiates and is contagious to all around her.” Outside the classroom, Star is passionate about dance, having taken five years of modern dance and two years of jazz and hip hop. At her dance academy, she learned American Sign Language in order to be able to communicate with deaf-mute students. She also works with animals at a local shelter and participates in Key Club and Science Club at school.

Benjamin Ponce
Benjamin Ponce discovered his love of computers when he was only five years old, tinkering on old machines in the garage with his dad. Since then, “driven purely by an inquisitive nature and a desire to build, he has devoted substantial ‘leisure’ hours to spec’ing and assembling computer systems ‘from scratch.’” It therefore comes as no surprise that Ben’s ultimate goal is to obtain a PhD in computer and robotical engineering. Despite the obstacles he has faced, Ben has remained focused on his school work and extracurricular activities, including basketball, soccer, and football. He also has been active in Boy Scouts for years and is pursuing its rigorous Eagle Scout program, “Scouting’s highest honor.”

Julian Sanchez
Julian Sanchez’s determination pushes him to put his education first regardless of the obstacles he faces. Teachers praise Julian’s maturity and focus, and he already has big plans for the future. Julian wants to attend a college with a strong technology program and major in IT security and computer engineering, with a minor in computer programming. He is currently putting that passion into action as part of his school’s Cyberpatriot team, an after-school national high school cyber defense computer competition program sponsored by the Air Force Association. Julian also volunteers for Planned Parenthood, his local library, and Operation Gratitude, among other organizations.

Jasmine Taghizadeh
As the eldest child in her family, Jasmine Taghizadeh has always felt a deep sense of responsibility to help care for others. “She has a heart of gold and brings sunshine into the life of everyone she meets.” That nurturing spirit has blossomed into an interest in medicine and a dream of becoming a neurosurgeon. In the meantime, Jasmine has fostered that interest by volunteering for the Make a Wish Foundation, the Red Cross, and the American Cancer Society. Last summer, she also volunteered at a doctor’s office translating for patients who spoke Farsi. As her culture is an important part of her identity, Jasmine is active with other Baha’i youth, creating programs to help better the community.

About O’Melveny & Myers LLP
With approximately 800 lawyers in 16 offices worldwide, O’Melveny & Myers LLP helps industry leaders across a broad array of sectors manage the complex challenges of succeeding in the global economy. We are a values-driven law firm, guided by the principles of excellence, leadership, and citizenship. Our commitment to these values is reflected in our dedication to improving access to justice through pro bono work and championing initiatives that increase the diversity of the legal profession. For more information, please visit www.omm.com.