Graduating SJT Scholars Celebrated in Ceremony

GW honored seven students who utilized the full-ride scholarship to pursue their goals and discover their passions.

May 13, 2022

SJT graduates 2022

Graduating SJT scholars, from left: Chidera Obiwuma, Cristy Mendoza, Cassell Robinson, Lester Maupoy, Clau Diah Buenconsejo and Lorrin Davis. Not pictured is Aniyah Fields. (William Atkins/GW Today)

By Nick Erickson

Graduating George Washington University senior Lester Maupoy is a man of many interests. He wants to work in data analytics in the music industry, but he’s also intrigued by entrepreneurship and understanding how markets work. On top of that, Maupoy, who moved to the United States from the Philippines in eighth grade, has discovered a passion for cooking and hasn’t ruled out culinary school in the future.

His involvement in clubs, activities and classrooms at GW has opened multiple career paths. Thanks to receiving the Stephen Joel Trachtenberg (SJT) scholarship, which provides promising D.C. high school students a fully-free GW education, four years earlier, Maupoy was able to discover his interests without worrying about their costs.

“My time as an SJT scholar allowed me an opportunity to explore what I want in my career and personal life without thinking about my financial hardships that made me what I am today,” said Maupoy, who earned a degree in business administration.

Maupoy and six other graduating SJT scholars were honored Wednesday at a ceremony in the School of Media and Public Affairs building, days before the Commencement on the National Mall Sunday. Clau Diah Buenconsejo, Lorrin Davis, Maupoy, Cristy Mendoza, Chidera Obiwuma and Cassell Robinson each shared a video offering advice to incoming SJT scholars, the funniest moment that happened to them at GW—which included umbrella mishaps and getting lost on the way to the Kennedy Center—and what they got out of being an SJT scholar. Aniyah Fields, also an SJT scholar, is graduating as well but was not present at the Wednesday event.

The SJT scholarship, launched in 1989, provides full, four-year scholarships covering tuition, room, board, books and fees at the university to 10 D.C. high school seniors. Once enrolled at GW, scholars participate in a weekly seminar facilitated by SJT mentors. These seven graduates will join an alumni network represented in all occupations as well as graduate and professional schools.

While each of the 2022 graduates had their own journeys to Commencement, they collectively agreed that having a built-in family with their fellow SJT scholars was invaluable in their GW experience.

“It was overwhelming at first to fit in and to find people that have the same interests and experiences you do,” said Buenconsejo, who earned a psychology degree. “To have this SJT cohort was something that was already given, and to be able to have these people to connect to was really helpful and important.”

All seven of the 2022 SJT graduates have lengthy bios signaling their involvements and accomplishments at GW, and all of them have ambitious future plans. Buenconsejo is off to graduate school to be a behavior analyst. Davis aspires to be a consultant or foreign civil service officer. Fields will start full-time at the GWorld Office upon graduation. Mendoza will pursue a master's degree in sociology. Obiwuma has her sights set on medical school, and Robinson will start work as an IT digital service management associate at the MITRE Corporation in July.

GW President Mark S. Wrighton addressed the graduates and said that while they were exemplary students, they will also be exemplary alumni.

“You came with great potential, you have realized some of that potential, and you have benefited this university, each other and other students,” Wrighton said. “But I hope that the education and the experience that you've had will add to your potential. You will be great alumni, and I know that you will make an important contribution to the world.”

GW Alumni Association President-Elect William D. Alexander, B.A. ’04, M.B.A. ’06, welcomed the scholars to the GW alumni community.

Alexander, an SJT alumnus himself, told the graduates that they have already experienced two incredible highs in their lives—the day they were surprised with the SJT scholarship and earning degrees—and to remember what led them to those moments when challenges arise. More than anything, he said, this class fulfilled the scholarship’s mission, and he proudly welcomed them to the community of SJT graduates.

“I am immensely proud,” Alexander said. “You are the embodiment of a dream decades ago, and you are going to go to heights and places beyond your wildest dreams.”

Graduates acknowledged they couldn’t have done it without mentors along the way, including Director of Community Engagement and D.C. Partnerships Helen Cannaday Saulny and GW School of Engineering and Applied Science Professor Royce Francis, both of whom spoke Wednesday.

When they were surprised four years ago by GW officials offering them a cost-free college experience, the seven graduates were embarking on a journey that shaped their interests and provided experiences in and out of the classroom. They are at the finish line now with an array of opportunities ahead of them, and Wednesday’s celebration showed that no matter where those take them, they are forever linked together as SJT graduates. 

“We made it,” Davis said. “And we are all crossing the threshold on Sunday.”