$10k Scholarship Finalist

I want to be the lawyer I didn’t have.

On the night of our wedding, my husband pinned me against the wall by my neck. I held still, sensing that if I struggled, it would get worse. We’d spent the day with our families and friends, enjoying what should have been the best day of our lives. But once the door closed after the final guest left, he turned on me.

“You embarrassed me, made me a fool in front of my closest people!” he yelled into my face. I felt the ground shift under me, taken off guard and terrified, gasping for breath as his fingers dug into my skin. And somewhere deep inside me, something ignited. At that moment, I knew that if I wanted to live, I had to leave. It took me three more years to figure out how.

When I walked out the door of the house my husband had built, I took nothing with me but an air mattress and the promise of a friend’s spare room floor. I didn’t know where to turn to fight for my life or for what belonged to me. At the time I feared that if I tried to fight, it might destroy me. When I look back, I wish I’d felt deserving to hire an attorney who helps women safely leave abusive relationships. In the years following, I sewed the pieces of my own life together and advocated for myself while gathering a close-knit community of support. I also unearthed a passion to study law. As I got stronger and found a greater sense of self-worth, that flicker of fire I felt on my wedding night fueled an evolving desire to fight for those who find themselves in situations like the one I had been through.

For years I worked as a special education teacher for at-risk children while independently consulting with and advocating for parents who do not have the knowledge or resources to traverse complex school systems. I’ve been invigorated by this work, and have also felt called to study law, propelled by the prospect of helping those in powerless circumstances. Because of my experiences as a woman, I’ve uncovered a deep desire to support women in oppressive contexts who are unaware of their rights or unable to access them. Sometimes I think it’s a miracle that I was able to leave my marriage, but it shouldn’t be. As a lawyer, I will practice at a firm that provides support to ease the way for victims of domestic violence to break out and navigate the world once they are free.

I was born into intergenerational poverty, and I’ve worked hard to overcome entrenched cycles of familial trauma. As I stand poised for an endeavor that will change my life, it strikes me that I will be the first person in my family to study law. Due to my humble beginnings, I don’t have the financial cushion to help me enter this next phase without significant stress about how to pay for it, and fear about how much debt I will incur. It is this same history of trauma that I have already begun to master, which has created a resilience in me to trust myself to move forward anyway. A $10,000 scholarship would tremendously ease my monetary strain and help support me to be the most dedicated student I can be while earning my degree.

A tumultuous path has led to where I am today, so I feel especially grateful and humbled as I begin the career that deeply resonates with my desire to fight for others so that none of us have to stay pinned against the wall.

I will utilize the law to protect and promote the rights of women and girls. I know firsthand that the stronghold of violence against women can feel impossible to overcome. As a survivor empowered with a law degree I will help other women to find a way out.

UConn School of Law has an excellent and rigorous law program, and the faculty are engaged and involved in the surrounding legal community. The culture of UConn is to encourage students to integrate what they are learning in real time in the community. This hands-on approach fits well with my learning style. Furthermore, the staff have reached out with warmth and support even through the admissions process, displaying that they meet the humanity of their students with their own. This leads me to believe the professors in the law program will guide me well in my process of becoming the kind of lawyer I want to be.

I am so grateful to be chosen as a finalist for this scholarship, and would first like to thank those at BARBRI who read my essay and honored me in the choosing–it means more than I can say. I’m also grateful for those close to me who have supported me in my decision to go to law school at this time in my life–I absolutely could not have done this without you. I’m grateful for the women who came before me, and those who are now in the world, who have overcome immeasurable obstacles and used their power to help others. You’ve paved the way for me to do the same.

The process of writing the essay for this scholarship was itself so empowering, as it was an enormous step toward conquering the fear I have about telling my story. I believe that winning this scholarship would further validate me in going forth with confidence that I can master the experiences of my past, and employ what I’ve learned to effect transformation for others, in my community and in the world.

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