You could fit Tobago, the island I grew up on, into Florida twice while leaving room for a few supermarket chains, McDonald’s franchises and shopping centers. As one raised a part of such a small community, geographic limitations often have overreaching influences on psychological aspirations. Consider my parents, Exhibit A: they were mortified when I decided to attend college in New York. The distance scared them. My parents, like many bound by the horizons of the lands that contain them, are crippled by fear of the unknown. I, on the other hand, maintain that life is bigger than the ebb of one’s home shores and intend to capitalize on all opportunities that avail themselves.
My courageousness and idealism hit an iron slab once I arrived in New York. It was surreal that after trying to adjust to life in New York terrorists hijacked planes and collided them into two of the state’s most monumental buildings exacerbating nationwide fear. Adjusting to New York in the aftermath of September 11th was terrible. The everyday trials of navigating mass transit amidst influxes of delays and reroutes, while simultaneously trying not to get lost and make it to school on time were physically taxing. Moreover, the pervasive atmosphere of fear that accompanied the weeks immediately after was emotionally draining. I persevered, I was strong willed and determined and nothing or no one would break me. I dedicated myself diligently to my studies ensuring I was consistently an honor roll student and graduated Magna Cum Laude. I enjoyed student life by being active and involved. I joined the debate team and we traveled to Puerto Rico for an intercollegiate competition – I won the best individual debate award. I also got involved in the school newspaper, ADAFI, and was elected Associate Editor. During my one-year tenure, my team spearheaded several charitable events including Thanksgiving and Christmas Food Drives as well as substantial policy changes.
That’s background: now let’s get to why I wanted to become a lawyer. I will be candid in conceding my initial motives for applying to law school. I was selfish, supercilious and greedy. I wanted to be another rags to riches epic, and to prove to all who doubted me that I was unstoppable. I was driven to make my parents proud and became a product of the doctor/lawyer career trajectory syndrome. I was adamant that intellectual aptitude had to be measured by success in either of these fields. Since the sight of blood and any science exam made me queasy, I opted for the latter. This gave rise to another quandary; what practice area would I pursue? Criminal? No, I wanted to have a family some day, too many complications with convicts in the picture. Civil Rights? Absolutely not, regarding this I was adamant. I refused to allow my appearance to define my career path. Yes, I am a black woman, but was it my cross to bear the injustices and struggles of the entire black community? Business Law seemed a viable option, good money involved, and a Bachelor’s degree in Corporate Psychology couldn’t hurt. There was my solution, a glamorous career in business law proving my intellectual worth, and startling my critics.
Upon introspection, I discovered I really did want to go to law school but for the wrong reasons. I was raised in a religious family and I was always able to rely heavily on my spiritual compass, particularly when making big decisions. It was not my intent to appear as yet another carbon copy applicant who finds enlightenment at the brink of the application deadline and is convinced of God’s purpose for him/her to change the world. It was once my motto that selfishness is the practical man’s roadmap to success; and that is the shameful truth. However, success often blinds us as to the source of our gifts. My talents and abilities are not by chance, they are God given, and “to he who has been blessed with much, much is expected.” Amidst my preparation for the LSAT the first time, I got word that Tobago had been hit by hurricane Ivan. Frantically, I tried calling home, without success, to ensure that my family and friends were not harmed. At that moment not the LSAT, not law school, not money, absolutely nothing else mattered to me. Relief came a day later when my mother called to assure me of everyone’s safety. Shortly after the neighboring islands of Grenada and Haiti were mercilessly hit by Ivan, hundreds lost lives and homes. I, however, was secure in the knowledge that all was well with my loved ones. I felt ashamed, disconcerted and disdainful of the person I had become. Inspired to improve, I found new direction for my life. Through compassion and generosity, I decided to use my God given talents to help the less fortunate.
The legacy and legal prowess of Thurgood Marshall is to me the axiom to which I hope to someday measure up. His strategic brilliance and unyielding fervor in fighting for the rights of the poor and the oppressed has set ground breaking legal precedent. Marshall didn’t fight cases for love of stature or money, he fought for the love of equality and justice for those least afforded it. A man who had strong convictions in God, his success was guaranteed because of the righteousness of his cause. Fifty years from now when I reflect on my life and accomplishments, I hope the same will apply to me. I hope that through courage and initiative I was able to challenge and change the status quo for the betterment of those in need. That’s why I decided to go to law school, and I wanted more than anything else to spend those critical years of molding at an institution such as Florida Coastal School of Law.
Granted, Florida Coastal School of Law’s reputation for scholastic excellence preceded it, but more important to me is studying in an environment with other students of substance, purpose and direction. I believe that is what the Coastal Law experience afforded me. The school’s commitment to empowering its students with the tools needed to be excellent lawyers was quite appealing. Florida Coastal School of Law delivered, I enjoyed every bit of my three years in law school. Law school was rewarding and I am thrilled I earned my law degree from a welcoming institution like Florida Coastal School Law.