Eight fifth-graders from O'Melveny Elementary School will pledge hard work for the opportunity of a lifetime tonight as they are honored as the latest recipients of the O'Melveny Scholastic Encouragement Awards.
The students will each receive $12,000 college scholarships when they graduate from high school on the condition that they remain in good standing and earn grades that guarantee them entry into the California State University system.
Begun in 1991, the program is sponsored by the Los Angeles-based law firm of O'Melveny & Myers as part of the Los Angeles Unified School District's Adopt-a-School program. The school bears the family name of one of the firm's founding partners.
O'Melveny Principal Lurline "Lucky" Hemphill said the program was designed to encourage promising children from needy families to stay in school and maintain their strong academic performances. If they make it, many of the students will be the first in their families to attend college, she said.
"For these students it's the first time someone has said to them, 'Not only are you capable but now you can afford to attend college,' " Hemphill said.
"The scholarship is just the tip of the iceberg. It isn't easy, they have to earn it," she said.
A committee of school and law firm officials selected the students on the basis of their school records, attitudes and need, Hemphill said.
In addition to funding the scholarships, O'Melveny & Myers employees also serve as mentors to scholarship winners during their middle and high school years, said Brigitte Herschensohn, a spokeswoman for the firm.
This year's scholarship recipients are:
*Emilio Morales*Esmeralda Raygoza.