The Legal Prep Charter Academy is a legal-themed, open-enrollment charter high school located in Chicago’s West Garfield Park neighborhood at 4319 West Washington Blvd. It was founded in 2009 by Sam Finkelstein and Rather Stanton, young lawyers who had the goal of increasing diversity in the legal profession. Since the school’s commencement, teachers have been providing a legal-themed curriculum to Black and Hispanic students and allowing them an opportunity to succeed at four-year colleges and universities and beyond. The students at Legal Prep gain substantive experience strengthening their skills in the areas of communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, writing, and advocacy.
Legal Prep celebrated its very first graduation ceremony on June 4, 2016, honoring the achievements of the first graduating class of 90 seniors and the successes of the school since it opened in August of 2012. Judge Ann Claire Williams of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, served as the keynote speaker. Judge Williams has been instrumental in encouraging the students to work hard, remain humble, and reach for their dreams no matter what obstacles cross their path.
Legal Prep has been supported by an extremely generous community, always eager to get involved in furthering the school’s goals via a number of activities, including but not limited to the following:
- The Associate Board, which provides philanthropy & enrichment programs
- The Law Academy Instructors, which provide lessons on statutory interpretation
- The Mentoring Opportunities, which provide year-long sessions to strengthen students’ confidence, professionalism, and responsibility
- The Essay Writing Workshops, which provide advice & prepares students to succeed in college
- The College Application / FAFSA Assistance, which provides a guiding hand through an often arduous admissions process
As a third year law student at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, I cannot overstate the importance of volunteering and giving back to others. I was born in New York City to a Jamaican father and a Dominican mother. Sigue Pa’lante, meaning “continue moving forward [to your goal]” is a Dominican saying that my family holds dear, and is one by which I try to live my life.
Trying to fit in with a society so accustomed to excluding individuals who are unlike the majority is a pressing concern that my community has faced. Throughout my primary and secondary education, I was often the only student of color present in my classes, and on occasion, I would be the subject of racial jokes; however, I have never let that minor factor hold me back. I have worked diligently to move past the stereotypes labeled on Blacks and Hispanics to prove that dedication and perseverance are necessary to break through boundaries and give me success in law school and in life as a whole. Being both an African American and Hispanic female, I believe that diversity is its own reward, and I strive to do my part to ensure that the legal field values equal opportunity for all its members.
It has always been my goal to become an attorney, and I am extremely passionate about giving back to the community through volunteer work. I have lead, motivated, empowered, and educated peers to take advantage of the opportunities which have been afforded to them. DeAnn Hollis of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society says it best that “The heart of a volunteer is not measured in size, but by the depth of the commitment to make a difference in the lives of others.”
In law school, I have had the wonderful opportunity of serving on the Development & Marketing Committee of Legal Prep’s Associate Board. I have supported and promoted Legal Prep’s mission to prepare Chicago’s youth to succeed in college and in life via a number of fundraising events, by encouraging a culture of philanthropy and investing in the future of Legal Prep and its students. In addition, I have assisted in a college essay writing workshop for Legal Prep juniors, by helping them to hone their writing skills, and am now a mentor where I hope to be both an encouragement and a resource to a graduating senior.
In the near future, I plan to open my own scholarship fund for undergraduate minority students who are double majoring and planning to attend law school. I personally realized the difficulties involved with trying to obtain an education in both undergraduate and law school while having access to limited funds and resources by which to accomplish this goal. I am therefore striving to make sure that other students do not go through the same concerns and burdens as I currently go through.
It is clear that the students at the Legal Prep Charter Academy are hard-working, dedicated, and goal-oriented individuals who have the drive to succeed in any endeavor they set their mind to. I strive to become a part of a legal community that will allow me to serve the minority community and I simultaneously encourage others to do the same.