Two New Watson Scholars Get Ready for a Summer of Discovery

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Watson Fellows Cheik Diakite and Audrey Adon.
Watson Fellows Cheick Diakite and Audrey Adon

The latest class of Jeannette K. Watson Fellows was announced on March 20, and for the second year in a row, two Lehman College students earned the award. Cheick Diakite and Audrey Adon, both freshmen in the Macaulay Honors College at Lehman, are among only 15 college students from across New York City selected from a competitive pool of several hundred applicants.

The prestigious fellowship provides three years of paid summer internships, mentoring, and enhanced educational and professional development opportunities to New York City undergraduates who demonstrate exceptional promise, outstanding leadership skills, and dedication to the common good.

“The new class of Watson Fellows represents the character, convictions, and aspirations of America's most inspiring student leaders. We look forward to introducing them to the Watson Community and supporting their personal, professional, and cultural growth,” said Watson Foundation Executive Director Chris Kasabach.

Fellows gain knowledge of different fields and work environments through internships that change from summer to summer. These experiences, combined with close mentoring throughout the year, help students expand their vision, develop their potential, and build the confidence to help others.

They learn their first assignment later this spring.

Cheick Diakite, a computer science major minoring in philosophy, is looking forward to the adventure. 

“I’m going to take every opportunity I get to explore,” he said. He also wants practical skills he can use right away.

Diakite grew up in a large family with roots in Mali and Ivory Coast. His parents put a high premium on a college education. Their values, and the example of his siblings, pushed him forward, he said. “Seeing my two sisters in college really made a difference,” he said. (One sister graduates from Lehman this May.)

Now Diakite spends his free time helping students at his former high school, the Bronx Center for Science and Math, prepare their college applications.

“Growing up, there was always a value of paying it forward,” he said.

He’s looking forward to pursuing interests in youth development, education, and more; interning overseas; and possibly incorporating these experiences into a self-directed project one day. 

With several internships in the cultural sector to choose from, Audrey Adon, a biology major minoring in computer science, is also looking for ways she might use her fellowship to bring her academic interests together with things she enjoys outside of school, such as environmental science and art.

“Outside of the research aspects, there are internships where I could work on a documentary, or in a museum, and help people explore their interest in the arts,” she said. For instance, “using 3D printing to generate sculptures—that’s bringing together computer science and art,” she said.

“I would like also to be involved with something that includes social justice with research embedded into it,” she added.

“What got me interested in the Watson Fellowship was the number of opportunities I could explore,” she said. “Being able to explore each of these interests while having the connection of a fellowship was really interesting to me,” she added.

Nearly 300 Jeannette K. Watson Fellows have been named since the fellowship’s launch in 1999. For more information about this fellowship and other opportunities, visit the Office of Prestigious Awards.