$10k Scholarship Finalist

“Are you going to forget me?” These were the last words Rahaf, an 8-year-old Syrian girl at the time, told me before I left her refugee camp in Al-Mafraq, Jordan, just miles from the Syrian border. Shocked, but also sentimental at hearing such a question, I responded, “Never, we’re going to change this world together!”

I met Rahaf three years ago through a youth-based service aid trip with an international NGO. Of the dozens of orphans and refugee children that I interacted with during the trip, Rahaf was the one who deeply impacted me the most. I played tag with her and her group of friends, flew them around like superheroes, and raced them only to find out how slow I was! These small simple acts brought true joy and lit up the faces of the kids, who have lived their entire lives in the middle of a desert in tent camps with limited access to food, clean water, and even restrooms. Upon meeting Rahaf, I found out she aspires to become a lawyer like I do. On my flight back from the trip, I felt so guilty that I got to return to America and pursue an opportunity to go to law school, but I left behind hundreds of kids that barely know, nor have the means of learning, the alphabet of their native tongue, Arabic. Rahaf and her friends had no opportunities to obtain a formal education as refugees.

I was so deeply moved by this experience, that I wrote and filmed a poem about my experiences dedicated to Rahaf, and launched it online through a fundraiser campaign to build a mobile school for the very same tent camp area Rahaf was in. Through the outpour of gracious support, I was able to raise nearly $100,000 to build and fund the school through 2027. Since the delivery of the mobile school in August of 2020, named, “School of Dreams,” inspired by Rahaf’s dream to become a lawyer, nearly sixty kids of a wide range of ages have been able to embark upon pursuing their dreams by attaining a formal education for the first time.

Three years later, as I plan to attend law school this fall, I reflect upon this experience and my motivations for becoming a lawyer. The day I met Rahaf, I made a commitment to myself that I would dedicate my entire life to empowering the marginalized in society, even if it is just one person. Six months after returning from this trip, I applied this principle and founded an online advocacy campaign to free American civil rights leader H. Rap Brown, now known as Imam Jamil Al-Amin, who has been wrongfully imprisoned for over 23 years. Receiving the “One Lawyer Can Change the World” scholarship will allow me to become a public interest lawyer and utilize my law degree to continue to advocate for the underprivileged in society. Even if I cannot change the entire world, at least I can change someone’s world.

My international experiences have greatly informed my legal career goals. I firmly believe in the adage “think globally, act locally,” and intend to become a public interest lawyer that specializes in civil rights, constitutional, and criminal law. Through providing legal services to underrepresented communities in America, I aspire to become a movement lawyer that increases minority communities’ involvement in public service and civic engagement. Long term, I hope to create a multi-faceted legal advocacy institution to effect change through policy, multimedia, and youth empowerment.

As a native Texan, I have worked at the Texas Capitol in Austin and currently serve as the Legislative Coordinator at the Texas Civil Rights Project. Attending the University of Texas at Austin School of Law (Texas Law) will allow me to build upon my growing professional network of attorneys and advocates in the Texas political field so that I can create an impact at a local level. Moreover, I am confident that Texas Law’s resources such as the William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law, Civil Rights and Actual Innocence Clinics, and Trial Advocacy Program, will give me the proper hands-on-training and experience needed to achieve my goal as a public interest litigator.

As a person of faith, I would not be where I am today without the prayers of my loved ones. I would like to thank God, my family, and my community which has invested so much in me. Moreover, I would like to thank all my mentors whom I lean on for critical advice and guidance. Last but definitely not least, I would like to thank my wife for all of her continuous support and for believing in my vision to change the world.

Winning the “One Lawyer Can Change the World” scholarship would reaffirm my commitment to continue advocating for the downtrodden of society and would make it easier for me to attain my dream of doing so as a lawyer. I hope to utilize the aid of this scholarship to propel me forward in my legal career so that I can educate and mobilize minority communities to overcome systemic legal injustices. Through winning this scholarship and sharing the story of Syrian refugees like Rahaf, I hope to inspire others to utilize their privileges to uplift others.

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