Columbus LLI graduate Victoria Efetevbia writes from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) where she is doing a Georgetown University semester abroad.
She is enrolled in courses about Twentieth Century Africa, the British legacy of the Atlantic slave trade, technology and society, and Yoruba, a Nigerian language. In the short term, this study fits her major in sociology and minor in African American studies. In the long term, she plans to work to advance social justice, and hopes that studying abroad serves that goal as well.
“I am very passionate about domestic U.S. issues,” she says. “But, SOAS has really opened my eyes to how domestic issues connect with international issues. It has sparked an interest in human rights for me.”
After graduation from Georgetown next year, Victoria will pursue a law degree and a graduate degree in public policy, perhaps also an LL.M., the advanced degree in law. Once a lawyer, she anticipates working in the areas of criminal justice and racial equality. Long term she hopes to run her own think tank.
“The confidence that I have in myself today to dream big and question everything is heavily influenced by my LLI rearing,” she writes.
She also notes LLI’s role in understanding the importance of professionalism. She adds that LLI teachers “really enforced the notion that preparation is always key -– in debate competitions, exams, networking, and for success in general.” Besides, she says, “[At LLI] I learned a lot of cool things about the legal field that most kids my age at the time were not exposed to.”
Victoria’s advice to current LLI students? “First and foremost, stay in the program for all four years if you can. Secondly, get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I was always insecure about the way I talked. But, pushing myself to pursue leadership roles in LLI competitions and speaking up in class helped me. LLI is a safe space where you should always feel comfortable challenging yourself and stumbling sometimes.”
Shelby Johnson-McMillan thought about the television series “Law and Order” when she first heard about the Law and Leadership Institute. But after attending LLI she could better gauge what lawyers do. “This is what I want to do,” she decided. As the result of LLI, she also has more tools to achieve that dream.
Shelby became intrigued with the idea of becoming an attorney during LLI’s mock trial program and reached a turning point in her commitment to becoming a lawyer after interning at the Oldham Kramer law firm. “Mr. Kramer let me follow him as he went to court, throughout his work day,” she recalled. “I was inspired. I wanted to be like him and his co-workers.”
At LLI, she learned to take timed tests, to speak effectively to a variety of audiences, and to be professional, including not only dressing the part but arriving slightly early and more. Reflecting on how LLI helped her, she advises those now at LLI to take the program seriously. “Don’t just come for the stipend. It will help you and open your eyes.”
Now Shelby is a second-year student at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, majoring in psychology and criminal justice. As a high school senior, she had looked for a university that was far away from home, historically serving black students, with a strong psychology program and active students. NCA&TSU fills that bill for her.
“I’m on my own and learning about something that interests me,” she explains. “It’s fun. I didn’t think I would like college this much.”
Following these interests with some devotion, she has earned academic honors at NC A&TSU.
What’s next? Though she wanted to be far away from home for college, Shelby wants to return to Akron both for law school and a legal practice.
LLI Columbus graduate Noah Allen won a position on Ohio University’s Mock Trial Team through a campus-wide competition. Now his team has advanced from the regional to the national mock trial competition, the only new mock trial team to do so. And he was honored as Outstanding Witness at the opening rounds of the national competition. It’s all part of his preparation for becoming a lawyer.
“Before LLI, I hadn’t considered being a lawyer,” Noah recalled. “LLI taught us what’s involved in being a lawyer. LLI also helped me to improve my writing, study techniques, public speaking – tools that would help me achieve my goals.”
He added, “LLI was fun. I especially liked the mock trials and debate. Through these, I discovered my love of ovation.”
During the second summer of LLI, Noah interned at the law firm Bricker & Eckler. “I got to speak to attorneys in different fields of law,” he said about the internship. “I learned what they do on an every day basis. I was impressed with Bricker & Eckler in general.”
What advice would he offer those just starting LLI? “I know that you have to go a lot and do a lot,” he said. “But stay with it! You’ll get a lot more out of LLI than you would get out of hanging out for the summer.”
Noah clearly has stayed with it as he works toward graduation from Ohio University in 2018 and then on to law school.
Melvin Smith-Williams first heard about LLI through a teacher at Mifflin Middle School. He was a part of a student group called the Gentlemen’s Club and because he had a strong interest in law, his principal nominated him for the program and encouraged him to apply. He attended Eastmoor Academy during high school.
During his LLI experience, Melvin enjoyed participating in debates, mock trial competitions, and various presentations. He particularly enjoyed his experience interning at Reminger. “I enjoyed being able to present in front of attorneys to participate in a moot court competition. We researched extensively and it was a scary but wonderful experience. That experience, in that environment, was a turning point and made me want to become an attorney. It is one thing to hear about what attorneys do, but seeing and talking to them every day made me feel special and was an environment I wanted to be a part of one day.”
Melvin is a rising junior majoring in Political Science. He recently transferred from the University of Akron to The Ohio State University. At the University of Akron, Melvin served as a Resident Assistant (RA) during his sophomore year. He was also inducted into the Political Science national honorary society.
During his time at the University of Akron, Melvin enjoyed being a part of the student body community. “My residents were wonderful and I enjoyed interacting with people and having a positive impact on them. The RA position was a great help to me and I appreciated the help I received from classmates and mentors. One particularly helpful mentor, Justin, helped me with my writing and also advised me on a regular basis.”
Melvin is very much looking forward to returning to Columbus and attending OSU this fall. Melvin shared that “OSU is a great institution that can help me grow into the attorney I want to become one day. I am looking forward to connecting to the same campus where I spent my time as an LLI student.”
Melvin plans to begin law school in the fall of 2018 and hopes to attend The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.
Marissa Garza says that she has been called into ministry and is determined to open a non-profit medical clinic in a developing country. She has already taken significant steps in her journey to do so.
Marissa will be a sophomore this fall at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she is majoring in pre-med and minoring in Bible studies. She hopes to focus her medical practice on children -- as a pediatric emergency room doctor or surgeon -- and has already been part of medical missions to Haiti and Mexico.
She got involved in LLI through the encouragement of her high school guidance counselor at Notre Dame Academy in Toledo. At the time, she was interested in law, and was drawn to the leadership aspect of the program. She reports that “LLI taught me how to be innovative -- how to develop an idea and put it into action.”
Marissa says the skills she developed at LLI helped her last winter as she started a non-profit organization called Love Covers All to serve the homeless. She wasn’t content to spend her six-week long winter break relaxing and hanging out with friends. Instead, she learned to crochet scarves, solicited donations, and assembled bags of toiletries, food, gloves, scarves, hats, and handmade cards. To date, Love Covers All has distributed over 450 bags to the homeless in Toledo and Grand Rapids. She emphasizes that the focus of the organization is not simply to provide necessities to people in need, but “to make a connection with the homeless, to get to know people and their stories, and to break down barriers.”
She is currently working on new fundraising ideas, and towards making Love Covers All a student organization at Cornerstone.
She is currently working on new fundraising ideas, and towards making Love Covers All a student organization at Cornerstone.
Marissa urges current LLI students to “not get discouraged and take all assignments seriously. Everything has a point.”
LLI-Columbus graduate Camille Smith will graduate a second time this spring – this time from Eastern Michigan University. She “kept her nose in the books” and won a supplementary scholarship last spring for academic achievement during college.
Camille’s advice to current LLI students is, “Never give up. That’s the big thing. And work hard.”
By ten years from now, she plans to own her own business. Immediately after graduation, she hopes to prepare for her long-range goal by using her major in marketing and her minor in communications to secure an entry level marketing position for an existing business. “Law school is still a possibility for me,” she adds.
In LLI, Camille improved her writing skills and learned to speak comfortably in public. She also noted, “I still use the LLI format in putting together my resume.” She pointed as well to the value of LLI’s preparation for the SAT. She thinks that LLI’s law focus gave her a good background for business.
During her early months of college, she benefitted from the advice and encouragement from an LLI teacher and an LLI site administrator who reached out to her on her Facebook page.
Cincinnati LLI graduate Kabria Tyler had just returned from France – from two weeks at the Toulouse Business School – when we connected for the interview. She was selected for the Toulouse program based on her performance in the international business program at the University of Cincinnati, where she is in her junior year. Ultimately, she hopes to operate her own business. First, though, she wants to prepare.
After graduation, Kabria may seek a master’s degree in business or a law degree, but in the meantime she is gaining experience that will be valuable in operating a business. In addition to her studies, she is the manager of Buckle, a clothing store. She has also joined the Black Business Fellows, mentoring first-year business students to help them adjust to college.
As both a full-time student and full-time store manager, she works hard, and one may suspect that she excels because of her diligence. She, though, also attributes her success to the Law and Leadership Institute. “LLI helped to build me personally and professionally,” she recalls. “We experienced a variety of situations. I interned at the Frost Brown law firm. We learned to act professionally among adults, to work with anyone. We had preparation for the SAT and ACT. A lot of students don’t have access to that. It helped me get into college and to secure a full-ride scholarship.”
If she spoke with current LLI students, Kabria would stress the importance of the program. She recalls that LLI “was not the fun thing to do” during the summer, though she enjoyed it ultimately. She adds, “Take full advantage of LLI. Pay attention. Listen to the advice. Take advantage of the tools it provides. A lot of us don’t have access to the resources and knowledge that LLI provides and that can help us grow and be successful.”
It may be a few more years before we see a sign announcing “Tyler Enterprises,” but when we do and wonder how she achieved that success, we can recall that Kabria appreciated the value of seizing opportunities to learn and prepare.
An “aha” career moment came for 2014 Dayton LLI graduate Davina Dennis during her junior year in high school. As she listened to an attorney speak at an LLI class about negotiating contracts for baseball players, she realized that she could combine her interests in the law, nourished by LLI classes, and in arts and sports – she could become a sports and entertainment lawyer.
To prepare for that career, Davina searched for a university offering a major in arts and entertainment. She is now two years into study at Point Park University in Pittsburgh and is actively pursuing that major. After earning her B.A. degree, her next step will be law school.
Davina continues to develop the leadership skills that she learned at LLI, taking part in Strong Women, Strong Girls, a mentoring program for elementary school girls. She also belongs to a student organization related to her major, the Sports Arts Entertainment Management Club. “College is fun,” she says, though she emphasizes that her primary goal there is to prepare for what she wants to achieve in life.
Thinking back to her first classes at LLI, Davina recalls, “I thought that I would never use what I learned there. But LLI has had great benefits for me during college.”
She points out that one writes continually during college. “LLI teaches how to critique your own writing and the steps to successful essays,” she says. She also credits LLI law classes for her success in a business law class, where other students floundered.
Her advice for current LLI students? “Pay attention to the writing parts of LLI. Knowing how to write well makes college easier. Use LLI as a resource for planning your career.”
Arielle Hooks had heard from friends in Akron that the Law and Leadership Institute was fun, so, after starting LLI, she was surprised at the level of disciplined work required. Ultimately, she learned that she liked LLI’s challenge, and now she welcomes the challenge of her classes at The Ohio State University.
“Every day at 9:00 a.m. we had a speaker, “Arielle recalls about her first summer at LLI. “We had to write thank you notes. When we were wrong, we had to do it over. We wrote so much! All of that boosted my writing skills. We learned to make eye contact and in other ways interact in a professional way. We learned to pull the key points from a long reading. It was all-around preparation for college.”
That is when she discovered that she enjoyed a challenge. “I found that we could have fun at the same time,” she explains.
Arielle did well in high school and secured admission to the Politics, Society, and Law Scholars Program at The Ohio State University, where she currently excels as a sophomore. She finds college courses much more challenging than high school. “Each class requires a different approach,” she says, noting that LLI helped to prepare her for that.
Arielle takes advantage of more than classes at Ohio State. For example, she plans to apply for an internship with the Canadian Parliament, and, if accepted to use the funding that the OSU Second-year Transformational Experience Program provides to take part in it. She earns extra money as a unit manager for Ohio State’s Dining Services and has learned valuable leadership skills through that work.
For those now starting LLI, she advises, “It’s all beneficial. You will gain from everything. The interpersonal skills, the professionalism, getting key points from the readings – all of this will help in any field that you enter.”
Arielle, though, has already set her sights on law school. She left LLI interested in going to law school but decided that she “had to do that” after taking courses in logic and reasoning and in women and the law. She has arranged to meet with Ohio State’s LLI Liaison, Law Professor and Dean Kathy Northern, to discuss her options. Once again, she wants to be ready for the next challenge.
Alexis Apparicio has her sights set on improving public education and intends to take a less-traveled road. She has decided to pursue a law degree as well as a master’s degree in public policy as the path toward achieving that goal.
That was not always her plan. After eighth grade, she enrolled in LLI only at her mother’s insistence. Partway through the summer program, LLI became, as Alexis puts it, “something I wanted for myself. I was interested in government and law. I started enjoying what I was learning and how it was presented.” While in LLI, she attended Columbus East High School, later transferring to Columbus Alternative High School.
When Alexis arrived at Ohio University in the fall of 2013, she still did not think of law as her career, but she shifted her focus toward law as a junior. “Lawyers,” she explained, “can address problems through changes in law and legal policy. Being a lawyer can help me have the impact that I want to have.” Ultimately, she may want to teach on the university or law school level.
In the meantime, she has established a record at Ohio University that will merit admission to law school and graduate school. She is in the top echelon of her class academically. In addition, she serves as a Senator on the university's Student Senate, president of her sorority, president of the local NAACP chapter, and a mentor to incoming OU students.
Alexis credits LLI on her Facebook page as contributing to her success. “LLI’s preparation in legal writing, public speaking, and acting professionally sets you apart from your peers when you want to secure a job or a research opportunity, “she notes. She points, as particularly helpful, to LLI’s mock trial program, writing preparation seminars, the senior forum on public policy, and preparation in professional approaches. Her internship at the Benesch law firm provided an opportunity to watch how legal professionals interact.
She urges current LLI students to “use LLI to your advantage. Ask your law student instructors to read over your college application essays and help you prepare for scholarship interviews. Ask them about your college choices; they know you.” She reminds that LLI can also be an interesting subject for those essays and interviews.
Alexis has learned to take advantage of LLI’s dedication to her success. Recently, she met with Ohio State’s LLI Liaison, Law Professor and Dean Kathy Northern, to consult about her post-college career plans. She is also anxious to give back. “I would be glad to talk with current LLI students about my experiences,” she said.