College of Staten Island Grads Going to Law School Featured in the Staten Island Advance [scroll down]


Five graduates from the College of Staten Island (CSI), Willowbrook, have begun their next chapter at New York Law School.

The graduates — David Checchi, Nicole Dos Santos, Rimshah Gul, Siham Hammoudi-Patout and Andrew Tawadrous — all received either full or partial scholarships to attend New York Law School.

As CSI’s Class of 2023 valedictorian, some may think that Checchi’s path into law school was expected. But the 26-year-old Army veteran said he initially had no intention of going to college while he was in high school. After enlisting and serving in the U.S. Army, he decided to pursue his education further and attend CSI.

He will attend New York Law with a full tuition scholarship.

It took years for Dos Santo to find her way to law. Dos Santos, 40, attended CSI after she graduated high school in 2002, but had to stop and start school several times for personal reasons.

“I never once thought to actually pursue law, because I just didn’t think it was something I’d ever be able to afford, and I had so much personal baggage going on that I wasn’t putting all my focus into my studies, so I didn’t think I could achieve the grades needed either,” she said.

But a serious car accident gave her a change of heart. She said she had to work hard to prove the accident wasn’t her fault, and it made her realize she would make a great lawyer. A push from friends helped her pursue a degree at CSI and eventually attend law school.

Dos Santos returned to the classroom during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020 and has since earned a scholarship from New York Law School that will cover almost 85% of her tuition.

“It honestly doesn’t even seem real to me,” she said. “I have no lawyers in my circle of family or friends. I never imagined I’d get this opportunity. As for the scholarship, it would be impossible for me to attend without it so I’m incredibly grateful.”

The pair intersected with students like Gul, Hammoudi-Patout, and Tawadrous, who made use of the CSI Legal Studies Institute and made the further pursuit of law a reality. They said the classes at CSI helped them learn important aspects of law to prepare for law school — while also receiving guidance and mentorship from faculty.

And while it took time for Checchi and Dos Santos to find their way to CSI, they have advice for future students, especially those who show an interest in law.

“Getting good grades is very important to being admitted to law school and is essential for qualifying for scholarships, but what is more important is exploring a wide range of subjects and choosing a major that interests you,” said Checchi. “Pursuing your interests stimulates a passion for learning, and further motivates and inspires you to pursue academic excellence in whatever you decide to pursue.”

Dos Santos said it’s important for students to make a schedule and stick to it, as there is much to learn and it can feel overwhelming.

“… If you’re going to do it, you must put your all into it. Invest in and believe in yourself, and you’ll be proud of the results,” she added.

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