Symone White still has a year and a half of law school at South Texas College of Law Houston (STCL Houston) to go before she earns a J.D., but that hasn’t stopped her from bolstering the next generation of diverse legal leaders.
She recently spearheaded “Discover Law Day” for approximately 100 underrepresented students from Yates High School in Houston. The event enabled the teenagers to experience “A Day in the Life of a Law Student,” which included a full day of mentoring by members of the school’s Black Law Students Association (BLSA); networking with STCL Houston professors, staff, and alumni; actual class simulations; a mock trial presentation; and a panel discussion with practicing Houston attorneys.
Sponsored by the Law School Admissions Council and hosted by the STCL Houston Admissions Office and BLSA chapter, Discover Law Day informed students from ethnically and racially diverse backgrounds about the importance of higher education, the steps they can take while in high school to achieve future education goals, and the opportunities afforded to law school graduates.
“I think it is critical for young high school students considering college to realize that – as minorities – they can achieve great career success in fields other than sports or music,” said White, president of BLSA at STCL Houston. “As the first in my family to attend law school, I understand how intimidating these goals can be. My message to these students was to be confident enough to make big goals, assertive enough to learn how to reach them, and persistent enough to never give up on their dreams.”
And if anyone has an excuse to default on lifelong goals, it is White.
“When I first was diagnosed with epilepsy my freshman year of college at Texas State University, I was crushed,” she revealed. “I’ve wanted to be a lawyer for as long as I can remember, and I was so afraid that my health might prevent me from realizing that dream.”
Upon her diagnosis, her doctor warned her that epilepsy can be triggered by high-stress situations, and she knew the pressure of law school certainly would fit that bill. Instead of surrendering her academic aims, however, she worked with her physician to learn how to best cope with her illness – while simultaneously earning her law degree. While some students have the option of studying well into the night for classes or exams, White knows her limits. She maintains a regular 10:30 p.m. bedtime, ensuring she gets the necessary eight hours of sleep her brain needs to function at its best. Likewise, she has learned ways to manage the stress that law school invariably brings, knowing that much more than her GPA is at stake.
“If I can manage my epilepsy while pursuing my law degree, I know others can earn their educations in spite of seemingly overwhelming economic or societal obstacles,” said White. “Many of the teenagers we hosted for Discover Law Day didn’t even know that they need a college degree before going to law school. And even more of them have trouble seeing themselves in my shoes because college, and especially law school, seem like an impossibility. It is important for these students to meet role models who have beaten the odds – and are even making a difference for others in their community.”
And White is doing just that.
As an ambassador – both for African-American students and her law school – she recently won accolades for her leadership and activism. The Southwest region of the National Black Law Students Association (SWBLSA) named White “Chapter President of the Year” in January, and recognized the STCL Houston BLSA chapter as “Large Chapter of the Year” among 17 other chapters in the region – including Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.
“My whole life, I’ve never accepted the word, ‘No,’” said White. Despite the odds, I refuse to put my goals on hold because of potential barriers I might face. I hope that, through Discover Law Day and my other contributions as BLSA president at STCL Houston, I might inspire those coming after me to adopt a different, more positive attitude about the obstacles in their own lives. Our community – and the profession of law – need more hardworking, passionate minorities advocating for issues important to us.”