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September 12, 2008


NEW YORK, September 12, 2008 – Freshmen Don-Andre Jackson, Leana Leon, Ivana Martos and Gabrielle Moronta, all aspiring physicians in the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education at The City College of New York (CCNY), are this year’s recipients of the prestigious Lois Pope Annual LIFE Unsung Hero Scholarship Awards at CCNY.

Mrs. Pope, the Florida-based philanthropist and President of Leaders In Furthering Education (LIFE), will present the awards, which each carry a $25,000 stipend, at a ceremony and luncheon at the College, Tuesday, September 23. It is given to incoming Sophie Davis freshmen who have demonstrated academic excellence and selfless community service in high school.

Omolara Thomas, M.D., a Sophie Davis alumna who received the first Pope Scholarship in 1997, will be the luncheon keynote speaker. Dr. Thomas is a Post Doctoral Clinical Research Fellow in Urban Community Health in the Division of General Pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center.  She is also the Assistant Attending Pediatrician at Audubon Clinic, a New York Presbyterian/ Columbia University-affiliated clinic.  

The LIFE Unsung Hero Scholarship program is an extension of Ms. Pope’s vision for rewarding and encouraging young people who put extraordinary effort into helping others. LIFE is a non-profit organization that is guided by the firm belief that young people are our most valuable resource and that learning from hands-on community service opportunities is an important and lasting way to educate, motivate and improve community life. 

Brief bios of the 2008 Pope Scholars follow:

Don-Andre Jackson: Mr. Jackson graduated from New Rochelle High School with a 95 G.P.A. He was listed in “Who’s Who Among American High School Students” and named to several honor societies. Mr. Jackson has also distinguished himself through his altruism, notably as a member of the Heifer Program and as a peer tutor with programs such as the Boys & Girls Club. In addition, he volunteered for more than two years at Sound Shore Medical Center and has been a member of the New Rochelle Youth Court for more than three years. For his untiring volunteerism, Mr. Jackson has been described as “an inspiration and role model to anyone with whom he works.”

Leana Leon: Ms. Leon was inducted into the National Honor Society at Tottenville High School on Staten Island, where she graduated with a 98 G.P.A.  Ms. Leon has worked to better the life of others in many ways. She was a certified peer mediator at her high school and, through the Newman Club, has led food drives and other charity events. She has volunteered in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Staten Island University Hospital and in a local pediatrician’s office.  Fluent in Spanish, Ms. Leon can also use American Sign Language, which could be a great asset in practicing medicine.  A college recommender said of her: “Leana has reached a level of maturity and ability that most students will only obtain after college.”

Ivana Martos: Ms. Martos won many academic honors and other recognitions at Aquinas High School in the Bronx where she graduated with a G.P.A. above 95.  She has had several experiences to help prepare her for medical studies. She participated in the Medical Career Enrichment Program at Weill Cornell Medical School and the STEP Program at Fordham University.  Ms. Martos also volunteered at NYU Medical Center. She’s had a life-long passion for ballet and has danced professionally.  She credits the dance form for much of her disciplinary approach to her work and for the beauty she sees in everything she approaches.  “Ivana lives her life with strong ethics and a wonderful sense of optimism,” says a mentor.

Gabrielle Moronta: Born in Washington Heights, Ms. Moronta grew up in Long Island, where she attended Valley Stream Central High School. She graduated with a near perfect G.P.A. and was named a National Scholar, among other honors.  She worked in retail stores through most of high school but still found time to do volunteer work.  Ms. Moronta was a peer tutor in school, at the PAL Tutoring Services and at Franklin General Hospital.  She has been a member of the Valley Stream Youth Council for nearly three years and is also active in her church, where she’s a lector. A mentor has said of her: “Gabrielle is by far the most dedicated and diligent student I’ve ever taught. Her work ethic is such that I wish to emulate her.”   

About The Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education

Since 1973, the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education has offered a unique, seven-year B.S./M.D. program that integrates an undergraduate education with the first two years of medical school. After five years, students transfer seamlessly to one of six medical schools – Albany Medical College, Dartmouth Medical School, New York Medical College, New York University, SUNY Downstate School of Medicine or SUNY Stony Brook School of Medicine – for the final two years. The School's mission is to increase accessibility to careers in medicine for underrepresented groups and to train primary care physicians to serve in medically underserved communities. Around 40 percent of its approximately 360 students are African-American or Hispanic. For more information, visit

About The City College of New York

For more than 160 years, The City College of New York has provided low-cost, high-quality education for New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines. Over 14,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; The School of Architecture, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture (SAUDLA); The School of Education; The Grove School of Engineering, and The Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education. For additional information, visit