By Kathleen Parrish

When NYC Posse 6 first arrived on campus in fall 2007, the students treated their mentor, Javad Tavakoli, like a newly minted substitute teacher.

But Tavakoli, or JT as they nicknamed him, showed nothing but patience. He never yelled or said no when they wanted to reschedule a meeting. His computer mousepad sported a photo of the group, and his office provided refuge when life became overwhelming for any one of them.

“I have no idea what we did to make this man care about us so much,” says Washcarina Martinez Alonzo ’11, a lawyer with New York City Commission on Human Rights. “He’s literally an angel.”

And now he has a scholarship named for him.

Looking for a way to honor their mentor’s “commitment to the educational success of diverse inner-city students,” Posse 6—Kareem Clarke ’11, Shariff Dean ’11, Zinzi Gonzalez ’11, Samantha Lucky ’11, Taaha Mohamedali ’11, Mark Singh ’11, Zurisadai Robert ’11, Qiao Rong Huang ’11, Krysta Battersby ’11, and Zhuo Wen Wu, along with Martinez Alonzo—established the Javad Tavakoli Scholarship Fund to support future Posse scholars, as “JT supported his Posse.”

“We wouldn’t be the people we are today without JT,” says Battersby, academic administrator at New York University, still the unofficial mother of the group eight years after its members graduated in May 2011. “We’re blessed to have him in our lives.”

Tavakoli, who retired after 29 years in 2015, learned of the fund during a surprise reception held at Lafayette in 2018. Martinez Alonzo lured him to campus under the pretense of attending an information session for incoming Posse students. But when he arrived, he was greeted by nine members of his Posse and staff. Tavakoli, who was rendered speechless at first by the generosity and thoughtfulness of the group, refused to take credit for the students’ success.

“Their efforts, their talents, their hard work are what brought them to where they are today,” said Tavakoli.