Getting to Know Your Peers
Florida Coastal’s February 2017 Student of the Month
By Professor Annette J. Ritter
 
How well do you know that person sitting beside you in Torts? It is hard enough just to keep up with Professor Ragan; you don’t have time to chit chat after all. In this article we are going to highlight just one of those students you might have met along the way: Christina Heath, 3L.
 

Christina has excelled while in law school in many diverse arenas. She is proof that you can commute to Coastal from Georgia, raise four kids (and a husband!), work and still get top grades. It is exhausting just to write about it all.

Christina and her family reside in Saint Mary’s, Georgia, where her husband is currently stationed. Her husband is a Master of Arms Petty Officer First Class and is the Watch Commander for Kings Bay Subase Police. Her children are Jacob, 13, James, 9, Levi, 5 and Charlie June, 3. She served her country in the Army Reserves from 2008-2016 and trained in supply procedures. Christina was the recipient of the Army Achievement Medal and Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal. It should be of no surprise that her dream was to serve in the JAG Corps. She applied to the Navy, Army and Air Force JAG Corps and was accepted into the Army and Air Force JAG Corps. She has decided to join the Air Force JAG Corps upon graduation in spring of 2017. Christina has said that some of the greatest feelings of accomplishment she has ever experienced came straight from her experience in Basic Training. She indicates that it is an incredible feeling to be pushed to a point where you are absolutely sure you will break—but you don’t. Christina wants to continue to push those limits. She also wants her children to be able to see new places, be around a diverse group of people, and experience that same sense of family, camaraderie, and purpose that the military gave her.

Additionally, Christina has done an excellent job in her academic studies. She is currently in the top 2% of her class; an inaugural member of the Academic Honors Program, where she serves as Vice-President on the e-board; Dean’s Scholar; Best Note—2016 Florida Coastal Law Review internal competition; Student Professionalism Award, February 2016; Recipient of Governor’s Merit Scholarship 2014-2015; Recipient of New Dean Merit Scholarship 2015-2016/2016-2017; CALI Award for the Highest Grade in Lawyering Process (Research & Writing), Civil Procedure, Property II, Lawyering Process for Litigation Practice, Trust and Estates, Criminal Procedure, and Family Law; Law Review, Symposium and Submissions Editor 2016-2017; and a research assistant for Professor Roederer. Christina was selected from multiple candidates for the prestigious externship with U.S. Middle District Court Judge Corrigan during spring semester of 2016 and currently works as a certified legal intern for the  District Attorney’s Office in Woodbine, GA.
 
But all those accomplishments and accolades do not tell you the whole of how Christina got to law school. Everything that I’ve told you so far is the easy part. Christina grew up on naval bases. But after her parents divorced, she lived the life of extreme poverty and abuse, residing at times in what could hardly be called homes. She was essentially abandoned by her parents and pulled out of school after the 9th grade. When Christina first arrived at Florida Coastal, she looked at the student ambassador and said, “I don’t know what I’m doing here; I’m just white trash.”
 
How did Christina get from there to here? When her mother was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, Christina moved back in to take care of her. During that time, she earned her GED and began taking college courses. It took 10 years, four children and a lot of life lessons before she earned her bachelor’s degree. And then one day at the grocery store…Christina’s life changed once again. In the milk aisle she ran into her former college advisor, a UF alum and former prosecuting attorney, who had urged her to follow her dream of law school. This advisor told her about a law school, Florida Coastal, which would be close to where her family was soon to be stationed. The next weeks were a whirl wind of activity; Christina received information about FCSL, registered for and took the LSAT and applied to Florida Coastal, where she began that fall.
 
When asked, as she frequently is, about how she has managed to do well in spite of her many responsibilities, she responds, “I think I learned how to be successful the old fashioned way-through hard work and perseverance since I was not born naturally successful.” I think Christina might be selling herself short. She has proven that she has the “stuff” that we like to call grit nowadays, to overcome and succeed.
 

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