My heart was pounding erratically, my hands were shaking, and sweat began rolling down my back as I walked down the cold, dark hallways of Barton Hall. I could barely breathe, let alone open my mouth and speak. What had I gotten myself into? As I approached the brightly lit classroom, there were around fifty anxious high-school students awaiting my arrival in their small wooden desks. I can still remember hesitating for a moment as I stood outside of the classroom. It took a few seconds before I could gatherenough courage to walk inside.
To my surprise, the program directors cheerfully motioned for me to come inside and introduce myself. They informed me that I would be teaching a class of about six to ten high school students for the next nine weeks. The Let’s Get Ready program provides low-income high school students with the chance to maximizetheir post-graduation opportunities by preparing them to take the SAT and apply for college. Through weekly SAT preparation classes, workshops, college visits, and college application assistance, Let’s Get Ready essentially keeps the children on-track for graduation and beyond.
Much like these children, I, too, was faced with the responsibility of discovering who I strived to be, upon entering college. It seemed as though I wasn’t good enough for many things. My introversion and extreme shyness prevented me from participating in several activities, although I longed to be seen and make my presence known. My transcripts reflected nearly perfect grades, but verbally, I was unable to make these two worlds coincide. I came to volunteer with the Let’s Get Ready program in hopes of discovering and releasing my inner voice, while also looking to assist others along the way. It was through this experience that I discovered my desire to be heard.
I strive to be a voice for the voiceless. I feel that I have a personal duty to stand up for those who are unable to speak for themselves. While I have been fortunate enough to possesslife experiences that have compelled me to overcome my debilitating fear of speaking, I am aware that there are others who have not been as fortunate. I often wonder how many people there are in this world that want to speak up, but are simply unable.
As a young African American woman from Philadelphia, I was fortunate enough to attend private Catholic schools for most of my life. However, my home life and school life were two vastly different environments. My teachers always stressed the importance of speaking properly and utilizing correct grammar. However, my neighborhood friends ridiculed me for using proper English. I was constantly plagued with the questions: “Why do you talk like you’re white? Do you think you’re better than us?” Not only did these words destroy my already lacking confidence, but they also forced me to retreat further into myself. As one of the only African American people in my class, I had trouble finding my niche both in school, and at home. However, it was not until I had my first encounter with a lawyer that I found the confidence to act on my desire to speak up.
As a young adult, I quietly observed my mother come to terms with her paralyzed arm, and I sensedhow adamantly her lawyer fought to bring peace and justice to our home after her botched surgery. It was due to this lawyer’s observant and kind, yet assertive nature that each member of my family was left with a positively deep-rooted appreciation for this profession. Attending law school will allow me to beamongst a group of unique individuals who are dedicated to making their voices heard, and advocating for those who are incapable of advocating for themselves. I plan to use my legal education to broaden my intellectualcapabilities, while also leaving a lasting impact on all of whom I come into contact with. I aspire to serve as a community advocate for all of those who do not have a voice. Those seemingly overlooked and forgotten communities such as the intellectually and physically disabled, impoverished families, immigrants, and displaced people, all of who require a way in which to freely express themselves. If I have the ability to speak up for even just a few of these individuals, my endeavors will be satisfied.
#TBT to the days when I thought I was going to be a lawyer…
Thank god I decided to do all of things that I wanted, instead of what everybody else wanted for me. The one thing that I’ve learned is that in order to truly feel happy and fulfilled, you must follow your own path. I’ve spent so much time trying to please others that I was not even pleased with myself. You will get to that place. Eventually.