Having received many impressive applications from students around the country, we are happy to announce the recognition of one incredible young woman, who demonstrates the importance of perseverance and stands as an influence to students everywhere of the value of continued education and overcoming adversity.
My name is Jessica Rodriguez, I am originally from Danbury, Connecticut, but I have lived in Houston, TX since 2007. I attend the University of St. Thomas in Houston, TX. I am pursuing a master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling. I am a mother of five beautiful and amazing children. I have overcome a lot of adversity in my life including being raised in foster care, addiction, and homelessness. I changed my life for my children in 2010, since then I have completed my undergrad studies in psychology at Post University in Ct and went on to pursue my master’s degree. I hope to get into a PsyD program after graduate school to become a psychologist. My dream is to open a non-profit organization called Grace2Fight where I will offer affordable counseling services and resources to those in need in my community. I understand mental illness from a personal perspective as I have bipolar disorder. I will use my experiences to help others overcome the obstacles in their lives. Neuroscience has shown us how counseling changes the brain, I hope to impact and change the world one person at a time. Winning this scholarship means everything, I am only working part-time because I am a full-time student. Getting this scholarship ensures that I can continue with my studies. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
In 2016, Dina Sarver, a first-year law student at the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University College of Law in Orlando, Florida is the winner of the Diversity Scholarship, celebrating African American and Hispanic students who come from single mother homes and worked hard to overcome adversity.
She serves as a national spokesperson with the Juvenile Law Center on their Promoting Second Chances project which concentrates on minimizing the harmful impact of juvenile records. Dina focuses mainly on juvenile delinquency and rehabilitation, a topic that hits very close to home.
Dina knows first hand how tough life can be growing up with a single mother. Prior to attending law school, Dina has had to deal first-hand with the numerous barriers her juvenile record has imposed including obtaining a college education. She relied on the support and inspiration of her mother leading her to want to become a source of unconditional love and support to others as she focuses her studies on juvenile delinquency.
Upon receiving this award, Dina stated she was so taken by surprise she had to start dancing, knowing that she was reassured on her pursuit to continue her education in spite of life’s hardships. Attaining her law degree seems to be only the first step in her quest to do good in the world and there is no doubt that she will be able to achieve those dreams.
We are excited to announce the winner of the 2015 White Collar Defense Diversity Scholarship is Christina Anderson. Christina Anderson is a 3L at University of North Carolina School of Law.
Upon learning that she was the first winner of the White Collar Defense Diversity Scholarship, Christina Anderson had this to say: “When I received the news that I was the White Collar Defense Diversity Scholarship Winner, I was ecstatic! It is a great feeling knowing that other people are invested in my future dreams and career aspirations. As an aspiring lawyer, I am excited knowing that I am joining a profession that is committed to giving back to the community through a variety of mechanisms, including providing financial assistance to law students. With the rising costs associated with attending law school, this scholarship will help offset some of these expenses and reduce the overall burden of law school debt.”
Learn more about our 2016 scholarship.
Despite the simplicity of a nine-letter word, diversity has carried several unique meanings throughout my life. At a young age, I recognized what it meant to be different and the importance of using those differences to defy odds. It was believed by many that I would fall victim to the neighborhood I called home. After all, residents in my neighborhood were serving time in prison, abusing drugs, or both; a reality that claimed the lives of far too many people, and left it difficult to argue with the statistics associated with my zip code.
Understanding the influences of my environment, I made a promise to overcome these barriers. In high school diversity meant breaking barriers and accomplishing goals. Setting goals and accomplishing them have been pivotal in building my character. Despite not having the opportunity to experience many of the activities associated with a traditional high school experience because I worked two part time jobs as a student, my first goal was to graduate from high school. With the guidance and support of two high school teachers, who encouraged me to apply for admission to college and scholarships to cover expenses, I attended college. At this moment in my life, I realized the impact that others could have and with their support, I was able to accomplish this goal.
In college, diversity meant being open, honest, and appreciative of the differences of my peers, and I sought mentors that could help guide me along the way. In general, college exposed me to a world that I had not experienced and I established a yearning for additional experiences that I never knew existed. During college I worked multiple part time jobs to study abroad and pursue other enriching experiences. With the assistance of travel scholarships, I had the opportunity to study abroad for a semester at the University of Ghana, spend part of a summer abroad studying at Cambridge University in the UK, and conduct research in Bahia, Brazil. At this point in my life, diversity meant being tolerant and respectful of different religions and cultures. Additionally, I found that being a culturally responsible individual gave me a different perspective to view my experiences and seek opportunities to learn. Most importantly, I was able to serve as a positive role model for others. I firmly believed that with hard work, anything was possible. When I contemplated giving up I remembered that my younger sister was looking up to me and following in my footsteps. Success was not personal to me, but rather my success signaled something greater, a sense of accomplishment to my family, my community, and my hometown.
My next goal was to give back to the community that afforded me so many opportunities. After graduating from college, I joined Teach for America. By devoting my life experiences to assisting others, I have increased my awareness about societal issues. At this point in my life, diversity meant embracing, respecting, and learning from distinctive, sometimes challenging mindsets, but growing professionally from all of my experiences. Several years later, I was even more inspired to have an impact on students in a similar way that my high school teachers had an influence on the trajectory of my life. After working in a low income, Title one school as a Special Education middle school teacher and mentor, I decided to attend law school.
I often reflect on my passage of where I am today, as a law student, who has broken several barriers, defied several statistics, and impacted hundreds of at risk youth through my work with Teach for America and other community organizations domestically and abroad. As a law student with aspirations of entering the legal field, diversity means staying humble and true to my values and beliefs, while always being sincere in my interactions with others. Through my life, I am reminded everyday of the importance of giving back to the community, engaging in meaningful work, helping others, setting goals, and working relentlessly to accomplish them. As an aspiring lawyer, it is important that these values remain grounded in who I am as an individual and attorney. My commitment to pro bono work in underprivileged communities and a pledge to continuously promote diversity, inclusiveness, and retention of attorneys of color through partnerships, mentoring opportunities to pre-law and first year law students, along with the value of promoting diverse programs are some ways that I plan to diversity the legal profession. Also, as a student I will continue to be a part of professional organizations within the legal profession that has a strong commitment to diversifying the legal profession.
Scholarships have played a critical role in allowing me to accomplish my career goals thus far. The White Collar Defense Diveristy Scholarship will help offset the expenses associated with obtaining a legal education. Diversity itself is a learning mechanism. I have the ability to recognize and embrace differences to move forward as well as understand a multitude of diverse perspectives. I truly understand that personal experiences shape opinions and will be eager to share my viewpoint while always being respectful to the values and beliefs of others. Seeking and accepting various perspectives enriches all conversations and understanding diverse experiences are essential to authentic discussion. After all, the ability to engage with a variety of people is fundamental to being a successful citizen, advocate, and attorney.