Students of ACS
Melissa Araiza, University of Nebraska School of Law, Class of 2021
If you asked me just a few years ago what I wanted to do with my life, being a lawyer and going to law school were nowhere on my list. After graduating with a Bachelor’s in Political Science, my family told me I should go to law school. I insisted that I was done learning, that law school was not for me, and I entered the full-time workforce while living in San Diego. It took me quite a while to find a steady job, and I ended up in a law firm as a receptionist. But once there, I pushed to move into any opportunities that came along. I was promoted to a records clerk, managed a records department, and then became a legal secretary. One day, one of the attorneys that I worked for sat me down in her office to tell me her plan for my future. I was going to stay at the firm, continue to work my way up the ladder, and someday lead her support team.
That day was the day I realized that I had made a terrible mistake – I was NOT done learning. It turned out that I enjoyed the legal field, but I felt like I was destined for a different role at the firm. I signed up for the LSAT, quit my job, and planned to move home.
On the day that my husband and I were moving out of our apartment to leave for Nebraska, I found out I was pregnant. We were thrilled, but terrified – we had just quit both our jobs! In Nebraska, I went back to work and weighed all my options at length, in case this was a sign that law school really wasn’t in the cards for me. I liked my new job, and I liked the attorneys I worked for.
Then, the 2017 travel bans took place. Lawyers all around the country showed up at airports to file habeas corpus petitions while I sat at home, infuriated. It was the worst feeling, knowing that I didn’t have the right skills and couldn’t help. That was my final straw – even if law school was the most difficult thing I would ever do, I couldn’t put it off anymore. I wanted to go, and I wanted to arm myself with the tools I needed to fight injustice, because that is what sparked passion in me.
In my first year, I made friends and joined a few groups, most importantly the American Constitution Society. This organization has become a centerpiece to my legal education, giving me opportunities and connections with like-minded progressives in a largely red state. As the new Chapter President for the 2019-2020 school year, I look forward to sharing our message with incoming students and to bring new opportunities to my campus. It keeps me on my toes and challenges me to do more, and it makes me learn something new every day.
David Adeleye, IU Maurer, 2021
It feels good to finally be here. When I say here, I mean law school. I was supposed to begin law school in 2014, but I took an interesting detour. With both my tuition and security deposit for my apartment submitted, I had a choice: go work for President Obama at the White House or start law school. Tough choice, right? Well, I decided on the former.
In 2014, I went from watching the news and the State of the Union in my dorm room to working on the issues that dominated the daily news cycle. I worked at the White House when the opioid epidemic first hit communities around the United States. I was also at the Department of Homeland Security during the Syrian refugee crisis, United States v. Texas, and the ongoing discussions of DACA. I was exposed to so many experiences at an early stage of my career that reaffirmed why I wanted to come to law school. I feel a sense of duty to learn the laws of the land so I can identify deficiencies and help make our nation more just and equitable for all.
What is transpiring at the moment is not normal. We have hyper-partisanship that is hindering meaningful reform, inflammatory rhetoric hurled toward those who seek refuge and opportunity in America, and blatant defiance of the rule of law by incumbent officials. But, despite all the turmoil, there is hope. President Obama instructed his White House staff to use all the tools we had to fight cynicism, unlock the possible, and make life better for the American people and individuals around the world. His resolve inspired us to work with a sense of honor and duty, knowing that people were counting on us and would be impacted by the outcomes of our work. This guidance also forced me to look beyond myself and the politics of the time to make sure I was fulfilling my duty as a public servant.
It is my objective to continue the work I started as a young White House staffer. As progressives, we are not always going to agree on issues, but I know that with our collective zeal, we can keep propelling this country forward.
Allison Lantero, University of Notre Dame Law School, 2021
I decided to go to law school out of a desire to better understand our democracy, to give a voice to the voiceless, and to eventually become a judge, like my maternal grandfather. As a well-respected judge of the 18th Judicial Circuit Court in DuPage County, Illinois, my grandfather had a reputation for consensus-building and fair-minded judgement. He taught me to always examine all sides of an issue before making a decision. His hero was Thurgood Marshall, and my grandfather is mine.
After spending seven years working for the federal government in Washington, D.C., I was ready to follow my grandfather’s footsteps and attend law school. At Notre Dame, I found a rigorous academic culture filled with students whose opinions and beliefs span the political spectrum. In other words, I found a place where I could learn to examine all sides of an issue.
But, in the American Constitution Society, I found, as they say, my people—a group of like-minded law students committed to promoting more progressive messages on our relatively conservative campus. I found students standing up for what they believe in, whether it be immigration, gun control, or simply opposing the rhetoric coming out of the White House.
My dreams of becoming a judge are still a way off, but as the current President of the University of Notre Dame Law School’s ACS Chapter, I’m excited and grateful for the platform to give a voice to the voiceless and better understand our democracy.
Danielle Michaels, UIC John Marshall Law School, '20
I started my journey to becoming a lawyer with plenty of interest but little knowledge of how to actually “get there.” As the first J.D. candidate in my family, I had to learn everything I know from those I have encountered along the way. On this path, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting people who have helped me become a member of The John Marshall Law School’s Class of 2020, and I consider those people a part of my team. To me, having a team equates to increased success. As a chapter leader, the American Constitution Society (ACS) is now a part of my team.
I have always been interested in the foundation of law. ACS has equipped me with an increased knowledge of that foundation, the U.S. Constitution. I appreciate that ACS prioritizes all Constitutional issues; likewise, I, as a law student and future lawyer, strive to help as many people as I can by becoming proficient in more than one practice area. As I pursue a career in Employment Law and Criminal Law, I plan to advocate for ACS’s vision—that the Constitution works for all. By collaborating with my community to pursue these interests, I have already started making my mark in my roles as the Vice President and now President of John Marshall’s ACS Chapter.
I am grateful for the support and resources ACS has provided and continues to provide me while in law school, and I look forward to continuing my relationship with ACS as I begin my legal career as a practicing attorney.
Andrew Shulman, University of Denver Sturm College of Law, May 2020
It is one of the great tragedies of law school that we focus on the titans, not the teams. We learn about John Marshall, Thurgood Marshall, Brandeis, Warren, Fred Korematsu, the Lovings, and the warriors who populate the history of American jurisprudence and justice.
What we aren’t taught is that Brown v. Board was decided 9-0 because Justice Warren knew unanimous consensus was the only real victory. We aren’t taught that Lyndon B. Johnson had to recruit southern politicians, vehement racists, to pass the Civil Right Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. We aren’t taught that justice, whether you are an advocate, an organizer, or a lawyer, takes a community.
If I am grateful for anything in law school, it’s the lesson that justice is a team effort. During my time in law school, I’ve had the chance to do a lot of great things. I spearheaded an inaugural Civil Rights Summit in Colorado that brought together over two-hundred members of the justice community. I co-founded a $100,000 impact fund committed to making socially beneficial investments. I created an “electoral reform blueprint” that will have national distribution and assist law students in effecting election reform in their communities.
But the Civil Rights Summit only came together because of a team of six law students, the support of dozen different student groups and non-profits, and over forty professionals who took the time to participate as speakers. The impact fund was the result of the tireless work of a small group of law students, committed faculty members from a number of graduate colleges, and special advisors scattered across Denver. The “electoral reform blueprint” came about because of the work of law students, professionals, and professors committed to creating significant electoral reform, and the unrelenting support of ACS. These projects have been some of the greatest joys of my law school career, and they were made possible by a team. Hell, even the very experience of law school itself is a team effort – I don’t know anyone who has had a happy and successful experience that didn’t go at it arm-in-arm with others.
While law school can be a process of narrowing and sharpening particular skills, it’s also a place where we can learn to see the whole board and come to understand that there is no army-of-one when it comes to progress. We have to be an army of attorneys, of advocates, of organizers, of intellectuals, and of leaders. ACS has afforded me the chance to expand, rather than contract, and to build skills I never thought I would have the chance to build in law school. I will leave law school as a builder and a warrior, and someone committed to legal reform using tools that go far beyond the courtroom. ACS has helped make training to be a “holistic” lawyer a reality.
Thank you to ACS, my family, and everyone else in my law school universe for making progress possible.
Ian Lamar Courts, North Carolina Central University School of Law, May 2020
“Each day holds us accountable. We cannot escape the day. And if the day had to witness how we spent it, what would it testify?” Mary E. Jackson’s preceding quote is one that I live by and one that encourages me in my life-journey. I am a first-generation law student who was raised by my grandmother (who was the first in her family to graduate from college) in a small North Carolina town named Reidsville. My desire to go to law school was formed as a young, African American boy being aware of the social injustices that affected my community and knowing that something needed to be done to solve the problems! I was surrounded by problem solvers such as my grandmother, my pastor, and the numerous family and church members that lived in my small community. I knew I wanted to be a part of positive change, and I declared my intentions at my 4th grade elementary school career day, where I stood up in my high school guidance counselor’s graduation robe and declared, “I want to be a judge like Mr. Thurgood Marshall!” From that day, I was committed to the dream and goal of becoming a lawyer to impact positive social change.
I became involved in my local church and in numerous school organizations such as the National Beta Club. I graduated from the Rockingham Early College High School in the school’s second graduating class where, at the age of 18, I earned both my associate degree and my high school diploma. From there, I enrolled in the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) where I was a member of the Legal Professions Association, Neo-Black Society, Phi Beta Sigma, and the Student Conduct team. Upon graduating from UNCG in 2017, I made an important decision to attend the North Carolina Central University School of Law where I entered through the Performance Based Admission Program. NCCU School of Law, as a HBCU law school, has ignited my passion for social justice and created avenues for networking with other progressive minded individuals and organizations such as the American Constitution Society. Like James Brown penned, “I’m Black & I’m Proud!” I add: “I am a proud and loud member of ACS!”
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