$10k Scholarship Finalist
As I combed through inmate correspondence and police records, I was appalled by what I read. A mistaken eyewitness identification, a prior criminal history, and shoddy investigative work were all it took to convict Rodney of a crime he had not committed. I was interning at Centurion, an organization dedicated to liberating wrongfully convicted individuals, where my role was to build a case for someone serving a life sentence when the evidence overwhelmingly pointed toward another suspect being guilty.
Throughout the summer, I started getting to work early and devouring books on wrongful convictions to identify new areas I could research for my cases. When I looked back on my life before my time at Centurion, I felt naïve that I had been blind to the treatment of these inmates. I often felt overwhelmed by the degree of need we faced and that, despite our efforts, nothing we could do would ever be enough. However, my work soon paid off. I collaborated with my supervisors to build a comprehensive report highlighting Rodney’s innocence for the review board, which was subsequently accepted for a full review (and is currently in the appellate court). After witnessing the injustice that so many are forced to bear, I felt exhilarated by what we had accomplished at Centurion. It became clear that I wanted to devote my career to working against the conditions that allow wrongful convictions to occur.
Inspired by my time at Centurion, I eagerly joined Teach for America after graduating from college. I wanted to work directly on disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline I had seen destroy lives at Centurion by combating the devastating effects of racism and poverty from the classroom. Although I faced immense challenges with students who were several grade levels behind and those with significant needs outside of the classroom, I remained focused on creating better opportunities for my students. Despite being 12 to 14 years old, many of my seventh-graders already had interactions with law enforcement and some were in the juvenile justice system for minor incidents. Many of my students’ experiences were similar to those I heard at Centurion. Most exonerees had early contact with police and had prior convictions for trivial offenses.
Having spent several years working with students from disadvantaged backgrounds, I intend to continue working with children and pursue my passion for criminal justice as a juvenile defense attorney. I am committed to using my skills and knowledge to fight for the rights and freedom of those traditionally facing marginalization, like many of my students and those freed by Centurion.
I believe that Harvard Law School’s deep commitment to social justice will provide me with the knowledge and opportunities to ensure that all children, regardless of their background, receive fair treatment under the law. The One Lawyer Can Change the World Scholarship will give me the financial freedom to work at a pro bono Student Practice Organization, such as the Harvard Defenders, to begin my path as a zealous advocate for incarcerated youth.
I am deeply committed to advocating for those caught in the criminal justice system. After hearing the stories of my students and the exonerees at Centurion, I feel motivated to contribute hands-on to this cause in the most impactful way I can: working as a juvenile public defender to advocate for those accused and convicted of crimes. As a lawyer, I aspire to work directly with my clients to offer them a rigorous defense they may not otherwise receive. Throughout my career journey, I hope to gain sufficient experience to train others interested in public defense work to fight for the rights of others.
I chose Harvard Law School due to its remarkable reputation for fostering a culture of public service and providing exceptional opportunities for students. My decision became clear after learning about the school’s extensive track record of impactful initiatives serving others and its alumni’s influence on legal communities nationwide. The array of clinical options available at Harvard is unparalleled, and I eagerly look forward to joining the student-run Legal Aid Bureau and Harvard Defenders. These experiences will enable me to actively contribute to this work and immerse myself in a vibrant community of like-minded individuals striving to make a positive difference.
I am grateful to those at Centurion who ignited my passion for criminal justice. I feel very fortunate that I had the opportunity to advocate directly for wrongfully convicted individuals as an undergraduate. The team at Centurion’s exceptional leadership and commitment to its mission have continuously inspired me to pursue this work. I would also like to thank my incredible supervisors and mentors at Teach for America and my school communities. They are unwaveringly committed to ensuring that all children receive an excellent education, regardless of their background. I am also extremely appreciative of BARBRI for this opportunity and its superb resources for 1L preparation. Lastly, I want to thank my family and friends for their unconditional support!
Winning his scholarship would, of course, significantly alleviate the financial burden of attending law school. However, its value extends far beyond the financial relief. I am honored and humbled that BARBRI recognized my essay and that I can amplify my advocacy for the rights of individuals accused and convicted of criminal activity. In our current climate, public defenders’ offices are grappling with severe budget cuts, jeopardizing the quality of representation for those in dire need. I hope my participation in this contest will continue to keep this issue in the public eye, and I am grateful for the opportunity to share how anyone can contribute to this critical work.