O’Melveny Opens Doors with New York Scholarship Program

Each year, our collaborators at O’Melveny & Myers LLP present scholarship awards to students from New York City public schools who show tremendous promise but face obstacles in realizing their college and career aspirations. Having helped 225 NYC high school students with pledged awards of more than $1.75 million in total since 2003, they know that believing in our students means getting them past their hurdles and on to the path toward greatness.

The O’Melveny New York Scholarship Program honors three students from each of the five boroughs. The program’s unique structure combines crucial financial support with college readiness workshops and professional mentoring.   

O’Melveny Scholars have graduated from colleges and universities such as Barnard College, Boston University, Bowdoin College, Cornell University, New York University, University of Pennsylvania, and Vassar College. Many O’Melveny Scholars have established rewarding careers in the public and private sectors, including one that became an O'Melveny lawyer.

We had the chance to talk with one of this year’s recipients, Mastan, a senior at Thurgood Marshall Academy for Learning and Social Change in Manhattan.

What was it like adjusting from life in Mali to attending school in the biggest school system in the United States?
The world I knew and grew up in was turned upside down when I moved to the United States. In Mali, I attended a small private school where everyone knew everyone. Now I meet new people all the time. 

We heard you actually speak three languages. What are they? Have they helped you navigate the melting pot that is New York City?
I speak Bambara (the national language of Mali), French, and now English. My two foreign languages have yet to come in handy in New York City. For the first few weeks in my new school, coming from a French colonized country where few people speak English, I learned very little because of the language barrier. I overcame this obstacle by directing all my energy into learning English, taking English classes, and practicing with my teachers outside of class.

You mentioned wanting to major in biology and minor in world history. Is there a connection to your career goals?
For as long as I can remember, I have had my mind set on studying biology in college in order to prepare me for a career in the medical field as a pediatrician. There is very poor access to healthcare in Mali, so often when children become sick, their parents are unable to secure any medical treatment for them. I want to become a pediatrician so that I can return to Mali and open a free clinic for local children, so they can receive the treatment that they need. However, I have also loved studying history in school, so I would like to continue to explore that interest further.

Mastan receiving her award from O’Melveny’s New York Managing Partner, Jeffrey Kohn

Mastan receiving her award from O’Melveny’s New York Managing Partner, Jeffrey Kohn

How did you hear about the O’Melveny New York Scholarship Program? Why did you apply?
I found out about this opportunity through my school, Thurgood Marshall Academy for Learning and Social Change. I knew this scholarship could help me pursue my goals of attending college and eventually medical school. This scholarship will help aid me in becoming a pediatrician, a goal that will require many years of education. I know that college is expensive and the O’Melveny scholarship will help lighten the load of tuition.

What are your favorite hobbies? What do you like to do outside of school?
I have a large family that I love to spend time with. I also like to watch television and volunteer. I volunteer as a teacher’s assistant at Open Doors Pre School, where I get to teach children how to read and count.

Mastan is impressive and has a bright future ahead. You can help make a difference for children like her across New York City’s 1,800 public schools that serve over 1.1. million students. Learn more about the Fund for Public Schools, and consider joining our ever-growing list of generous funders who support NYC’s future leaders.

Matt Darian