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.
Kayla Byrd’s middle school principal encouraged her to apply to the LLI program during her 8th grade year at Monroe Alternative. Kayla is a graduate of Columbus Alternative High School where she was involved in a wide variety of student groups, including the Baking Club (President), National Honor Society, and an Anti-Human Trafficking Organization (President).
Kayla shared that she “really enjoyed meeting new students and being challenged in new ways in the LLI program. In school we often do a lot of the same activities but we do not access the part of the brain that involves critical thinking. As a participant in this program, it changed the way I think critically, pay attention to details, etc. I am grateful to now have such a strong network and support system.”
Kayla is currently a rising junior at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and is majoring in Actuarial Science. She has enjoyed her time at Penn thus far and said “it was definitely the right choice for me. LLI helped me realize what qualities I was seeking in a school. “At Penn she is the outgoing Finance Chair of the Black Student League and is now the External Affairs Chair for the upcoming academic year. She also is the Treasurer of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated.
Her participation in the LLI program has been useful to her in college. “We have to make presentations often and we also have to work well in groups. During LLI, I was accustomed to working with people who had diverse backgrounds, experiences, and opinions. LLI taught me how to focus on facts as opposed to emotions and that has been very beneficial in my college courses, including my business ethics class.”
Kayla encourages prospective students to apply to LLI. “Just do it. You can get so much from the program. My brother and I both benefitted from the program and he is pre-med and I am in the business school and this program helped both of us immensely. You never know what you might pursue in the future and the program will expose you to a lot of mentors and advisors who will help you. The ACT preparation and essay writing were both extremely useful. Put your all into the program.”
This summer, Kayla is interning in the Actuarial Science Department at Prudential Financial, Inc., in Newark, New Jersey. She hopes to utilize her degree in Actuarial Science to pursue a career in life insurance. She is also interested in finding ways to help children and to perform community service.
Imokhai Okolo is a senior at Miami University, with a major in social justice studies and a minor in business legal studies. He has already taken the LSAT, and this fall will be applying to law schools in Ohio, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.
Imokhai has always liked to talk and argue, and he says that LLI helped him realize that he wanted to be a lawyer. He is interested in litigation, and could see himself in a prosecutor’s office. Imokhai’s activities at Miami have positioned him well for such a career: he is on the mock trial team (which is the third best in the country, behind Harvard and Yale); he is a member of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity; and he is involved with Student Court and the National Black Law Students Association. This summer, Imokhai has an internship with the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Veteran’s Court.
Imokhai credits LLI with helping him navigate the college admissions and LSAT processes. He says that the program also gave him exposure to new people -- including students from other schools -- and an opportunity to branch out. Most of all, he values the mentorship, network, and support system that LLI provided, and that he continues to take advantage of. When he goes back to Akron, Imokhai still meets with LLI’s former director and his law student instructors. Imokhai is already a mentor himself. He has gone back to help LLI students with mock trial skills, and works with Miami’s Project Reach, which teaches college prep skills to juniors and seniors in Cincinnati.
Imokhai urges current students to stick with LLI -- everything helps, even if it seems unexciting at the time. He says that LLI is “super beneficial no matter what career you choose” and is truly a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Gabriel Jackson is a graduate of Columbus Africentric Early College High School. He is now a rising junior at The Ohio State University and credits his participation in LLI for much of his academic success.
During high school Gabe was a member of the cross country (captain), wrestling, bowling, track and baseball (captain) teams. He was a member of the National Honor Society and he was also the videographer for the football team.
Gabe first found out about LLI from one of his 8th grade teachers, Mr. Wright, who encouraged him to participate in the program. Gabe will always remember his internship at Frost Brown Todd LLC. Gabe shared that “my internship experience shed light on the real experiences of attorneys.” Also during the LLI program he enjoyed “reading about contracts, discussing the terms and re-writing them as well.”
Gabe shared that LLI helped him increase his ACT score substantially. He revealed that “if I did not increase my ACT score I would not be at OSU. While I had a high GPA and was involved in extra-curricular activities, LLI gave me the boost I needed to get into OSU.”
Gabe is majoring in Public Affairs at OSU. This fall, Gabe will be a Resident Assistant in one of the student dormitories. Gabe has thoroughly enjoyed his experience at OSU thus far. “What I love most about OSU is the very open and inviting social environment. I have learned so much and have been impacted by the diversity at OSU. I have made friends from countries all over the world. My roommate Kyle is from a very different background, but we have learned a lot from each other and have become close friends.”
Gabe shared this advice for students considering applying to the LLI program: “If you want to join a program that creates many opportunities for you, both in the legal field, and in life generally, with ACT assistance, and with college application support, this is a great program. But for people helping me with LLI, I would not be a sophomore in college right now. LLI can help you get to great places, but you have to be willing to work hard.”
Gabe plans to apply to law school after he graduates from OSU and hopes to attend The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law or Howard Law School.
Cincinnati LLI graduate Celeste Kearney may be in her first year of college in the mountains of New Hampshire, but she already enjoys the collegiate experience and is thriving at Dartmouth College.
Celeste has started a step team at Dartmouth and joined the Dartmouth Minorities in Business Association, the Afro-American Society, and the alumni relations group. She leans toward a government major, and she feels certain that she will pursue a law degree next.
While she enjoys the choices and freedoms of college life, she values even more the friends she has made. “I worried about whether I would find a good group of friends.” she explains. “Luckily, I was able to find a good group of friends early on.”
It was Celeste's participation in LLI that led to her interest in a legal career. All of the exposure to law piqued her interest, and listening to the speakers talk about their careers made her realize that “there’s not one way that you must use a law degree. I like flexibility.”
She values other aspects of LLI, including the career preparation and writing skills. At her internship at Xpedx Corporation’s legal department and during the preparation for that, “I learned how people behave in an office. I had never experienced that before,” she says. “Only last week, I talked with a friend from LLI. He told me that he had used the LLI classes in etiquette for the business setting just a few days before.”
Autumn Mitchell graduated from the University of Toledo only two and a half years after graduating from the Law and Leadership Institute in Toledo. In part, the early graduation resulted from Autumn’s focus on her goal of becoming a civil rights lawyer. That dream, which began when she was only 16 or 17 years old, led her to take courses carrying college credit while still in high school.
Autumn credits LLI with helping her develop career goals early. “Before LLI, I had no idea what I wanted to be,” she recalls. “As a first generation college student, it was difficult to imagine myself as a working professional. Joining this program gave me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet attorneys in different fields of practice, Ohio Supreme Court justices, local judges, magistrates, politicians, and many other inspiring people. The influence of my teachers and staff at LLI gave me clarity on what I would like to do as a lifelong profession.”
She singles out Professor Marilyn Preston, the University of Toledo LLI site administrator, for special praise. “She wrote letters of recommendation. She helped me think about applications,” she said. “She was awesome.”
Autumn advises students just starting with LLI to “use the opportunity and resources LLI offers to help yourselves grow.” She adds, “Take it seriously now. Start preparing now by improving your critical thinking and your writing, and take advantage of the opportunity to be in a professional environment.”
She follows her own advice about working hard. While earning a bachelor’s degree in a remarkably short time, she worked 20 hours a week during the academic years and full time during summers.
For graduating LLI students about to begin college, she suggests, “Find a way to be around like-minded people while in college. Stay on track. Take on responsibility.” Autumn found an opportunity to do that through a leadership role in the University of Toledo’s gospel choir.
She plans to work for a period but law school is the next step. Reflecting back to starting high school, Autumn said, “Becoming an attorney used to seem farfetched, but now it is realistic and attainable.”
The LLI Board of Directors voted to retain the depth and free-tuition aspects of the program for current students and to deal with a reduced 2016 budget instead through admissions decisions.
“We chose quality over quantity,” said Board President and CEO Steve Jemison. “When we ask a student to put in time over and above their school work, we want every minute to count for that student, every aspect of the program to be excellent.”
As a result of the Board decision, current LLI students will notice no changes in the program. LLI will not take in a new entering class in 2016, but staff will focus instead on recruiting new entering students for 2017.
On March 19, 2016, over 300 Law and Leadership institute students, parents, friends, supporters and staff gathered at the Supreme Court of Ohio in Columbus for the 2016 third annual Intra-LLI Academic Year Competition. Students from LLI’s six cities in Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Toledo traveled to the courthouse for the competition.
Students participated in one of three activities including Mock Trial, The Leadership Showcase, and the Senior Project Presentations. LLI CEO and Board President, Steve Jemison shared that “the day evidences why we do what we do. We saw students excel on their feet. Without a doubt they are being prepared for excellence.”
Students from all eight LLI sites competed in the Intra-LLI Mock Trial Competition. The case materials were graciously provided to LLI students and staff by the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education (OCLRE). OCLRE has provided case materials to LLI students and staff for years and we are thankful for their ongoing support of our program.
Students competed in two trials, one in the morning, and a second in the afternoon. All trials were judged by a panel of volunteer professionals, primarily from the Columbus legal community.
Christopher Schraff, an attorney from Porter Wright, who judged the competition for the second year in a row, observed that “seeing and listening to students who devote so much time to improving their advocacy skill is inspiring, and brings back memories of my own early interest in the law as a career. These students, whatever their ultimate goals for life and future careers will benefit from the confidence and speaking skills they develop in this competition.” Veronica Bennu, who has served as a volunteer judge for LLI for the past three years shared Schraff’s sentiments and went on to say that “whenever I come to work with the students of LLI, I leave feeling more grateful and fulfilled than when I arrived. The students are invariably bright, and enthusiastic. . . So volunteering with LLI is as much a gift to myself, as it is to the students.”
The LLI Dayton team won first place in this year’s competition. Their coach, LLI Instructor, Hannah Diemer said that “this group of LLI students really came together as a team and was able to rely and support each other as they prepared the case. It was wonderful to see their hard work pay off in the end.”
Top Three Mock Trial Teams
1. Dayton Team
2. Akron Team
3. Cincinnati Team
The Leadership Project Showcase
2016 marks the third year that students participated in the Leadership Project Showcase. Students worked in small groups and were charged with identifying problems or issues in their communities and creating action plans to create positive change. Participating LLI sites will implement one of the Leadership Projects this summer. The winning project came from the University of Dayton and was entitled “Grow the Revolution.” The students noted that Dayton is a food desert and as a result they plan to create a garden center in the community that is maintained year-round by LLI students. The fruits and vegetables produced by that garden will be shared with students from Dayton Public Schools and other members of their local community. Former LLI Columbus Instructors, Jessica Doogan and David Moser hosted the Leadership Project Showcase. Moser shared that “after four years of involvement with LLI, I continue to be inspired by the intellect, innovation, maturity, and professionalism displayed by our students. The Leadership Project presentations further proved the lasting impact of LLI - not only on the educational and professional development of students, but on their surrounding communities as well.”
Top Three Leadership Projects
1.Grow the Revolution (LLI Dayton)
2.Donate Towards the Future (LLI Dayton)
3.Teach the World (LLI Cincinnati)
Senior Project Presentations
This is the first year that LLI seniors presented their Senior Projects. LLI Seniors were charged with researching and assessing colleges and universities that interested them. More specifically, the project required them to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of various schools and what steps they must proactively take in order to thrive academically and professionally in college and beyond. Once these qualities were identified, students created plans for success and identified ways in which they can become leaders on campus. LLI Board Member and Volunteer Judge, Melissa Kendralla observed that “LLI students demonstrated a commitment to their research and critical insight into their college choices as they presented their plans to the judges.”
Top Three Senior Projects
1.Kim Vu (LLI Cleveland)
2.Tomara Dorsey (LLI Dayton)
3.Ayman Bazar (LLI Dayton)
Toledo Writing Project
During the 2015-16 academic year, due to a grant from the Toledo Community Foundation, Toledo seniors participated in a course designed to advance skills in the organization and development of discourse of reason through reading, writing, critical thinking and discussion. Students wrote a Research Essay that challenged them to discuss, synthesize, and argue about the substance of their research. The course was taught by Robert Beckwith, an adjunct instructor at the University of Toledo, and students who successfully completed the course and earned a grade of a college-level B or higher received a stipend of $600 each. Students who successfully completed their papers presented to a panel of judges during the March 19th competition in Columbus, Ohio.
Keynote Speaker-Alexis Apparicio (LLI Columbus Class of 2013)
LLI Columbus alumna, Alexis Apparicio provided the Keynote Address at our Closing Ceremony. Alexis is a graduate of Columbus Alternative High School and is currently a junior at Ohio University. She has a 3.7 gpa and plans to attend law school after graduation. She attributes much of her success to the start she received at LLI. You may read her speech in its entirety here.
This is the second year in a row that this event was hosted at the Supreme Court of Ohio. Mr. Jemison observed that LLI is “grateful and humbled by the continuing support of the Supreme Court in opening its doors to our students and for the support of it's staff in running the event. It is such an inspiring setting for our students to learn what is possible.”
"We really push our students and have high expectations for them," said LLI Executive Director Heather Creed. "They make a lot of sacrifices to be in this program so it's very exciting to see them rise to the occasion. We look forward to seeing their continued successes in the future."
LLI would not be able to do this great work without the ongoing and dedicated support of many volunteers across the state. We want to thank our volunteers who served as judges for our Mock Trial Competition, Leadership Project Showcase and Senior Project.
Mock Trial Judges
Jonathan Hollingsworth - OCLRE Board Member/Hollingsworth & Associates
Pamela Boratyn Best - OCLRE Board Member/Attorney General of Ohio Mike DeWine
Beatrice Nokuri - Bricker & Eckler
Azure’D Metoyer - Huntington National Bank
Michael Wheeler - Dinsmore & Shohl
Elizabeth Cary - Law Clerk, Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
Kwame Christian - The Christian Law Office
Adam Schira - Dickinson-Wright
Jonathan Hsu - Environmental Review Appeals Commission
Jeffrey Lindemann - Frost Brown Todd
Jacqueline Lewis - Bricker & Eckler
Veronica Bennu - Nationwide
James Saywell - Law Clerk, Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
Peter Bozzo - Law Clerk, Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
Vincent Scebbi - Cleveland Marshall Law Student
Brooke Hamilton - Cleveland Marshall Law Student
Tisha Brady - Key Management Solutions Inc.
Demetrice Allen - Ice Miller
Kari Murphy - Capital University Law School
Jim Satola - Federal Bar Association
Marla Gilreath - Nationwide
Christopher Schraff - Porter Wright
Leadership Project Judges
Gabriel Jackson - LLI Columbus Alumna (’15)
Melvin Smith-Williams - LLI Columbus Alumna (‘14)
Ariana Groce - LLI Columbus Alumna (’14)
Autumn Mitchell - LLI Columbus Alumna (’13)
MaCarre Turner - LLI Toledo Alumna (’14)
Anne Connerton - LLI Toledo Alumna (’13)
Jameelah Dailey - LLI Cincinnati Alumna (’14)
Leadership Project Hosts
David Moser - Former LLI Instructor/City of Delaware, Ohio
Jessica Doogan - Former LLI Instructor/Ohio Civil Services Employee Association
Senior Project Judges
Melissa Kendralla - LLI Board Member/Southwestern City School District
Kevin Peters - Southwestern City School District
Lisa Schwieterman - Whitehall City Schools