“I Want to Create a Path”: Options Scholars Prepare to Shine

Options Scholars Antonio Cortorreal and Lamiya Rahman wearing the t-shirts of their respective colleges
Options Scholars Antonio Cortorreal and Lamiya Rahman

There are lots of things that inspire people to become doctors. Lamiya Rahman’s high school lab class is one of the more unusual ones.

“I got got a chance to take forensics. We conducted autopsy reports on Barbie dolls!” she says on the phone from her famiily’s home in Jackson Heights. 

Rahman also enjoyed anatomy and genetics classes, and she liked interacting with patients as a volunteer at a local hospital. She’s excited to begin school at Columbia University this fall and start figuring out her future: “I want to be a pediatrician but I also like dermatology.”

Rahman will get help with her school bills from our Options Center, which helps New Yorkers get into college—and graduate. She is one of 12 students to be awarded an Options Scholarship this year. 

“I’m extremely dedicated and extremely motivated,” she says. “As the first person to go to college in my family I want to create a path from them to follow.”

Fellow Options Scholar Antonio Cortorreal, who lives in Harlem, is interested in engineering. “I always liked tech and I want to know how everything works,” he says. 

Even though he hasn’t started his freshman year at SUNY Stonybrook, Cortorreal’s whole summer will be about school. He’s taking summer classes and driving for Uber Eats to save money for college costs.

Cortorreal and Rahman both won $1,000 scholarships. That may not sound like much in a country where in-state public school costs an average of $22,000 a year and private school a whopping $50,000. But unlike most college grants and loans, Options Scholarships provide flexible funding, and that’s critical. Rahman plans to spend hers on books—something that’s almost always left out of student aid. Cortorreal is using it to plug a gap in his funding: “College gives me financial aid plus loans, and this will help pay what’s left over.”

Both students made full use of the Options Center while applying for college. “I did a lot of workshops, figuring out how to do college applications and financial applications,” says Cortorreal. “We took trips to colleges and worked on our essays. I don’t know how I would have done this application process without Options.”

Meet more of our 2020 Options Scholars in this short video.