Major/Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Philosophy, Certificate in Dispute Resolution
Cohort: Rising Scholars of Justice (RSJ), Apple Corps, Model U.N., CUNY Service Corps, Vera Fellow
Hometown: Alexandria, Egypt; Brooklyn, New York
Career aspiration: Federal Judge
“Before I enrolled at John Jay, I went to an open house event where I met a graduating senior named Magdalena Oropeza ’18. She had just taken the LSAT and got into Columbia Law School. She told me, ‘If you want to become a lawyer, Dr. Jodie Roure is the key.’ When I became a John Jay student, I set my sights on Dr. Roure’s Rising Scholars of Justice (RSJ) program. RSJ took me from a student who had law-school dreams to someone who got into a top law school with a full scholarship.”
What prepared you the most for the law school application process?
My classes—especially my philosophy classes—showed me how to take new information, break it down, ask for help if needed, and essentially learn a new language specific to that field of study. These courses were reading intensive and improved my test-taking abilities, which helped me with the LSAT and the law school application process.
Also, I wouldn’t be entering law school without the support I received from John Jay’s faculty. I’m a first-generation college student, so I didn’t know how to navigate the application process. Professors like Dr. Roure, Dr. Andrew Sidman, and Greg Donaldson encouraged me every step of the way, and they sang my praises to law schools. That level of support was transformational.
How did Rising Scholars of Justice prepare you for law school?
The program is for first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students. It gives students early exposure to the study of law, holistic support, law school experience, and LSAT preparation. There’s a partnership with the University of Houston Law Center where we can take courses. I took a legal writing course and a criminal law course. English is not my first language, but after taking those classes, I scored the highest legal memo grade. It improved my writing that much. That experience showed me that I had a real shot at getting into law school and that I genuinely enjoyed the work.
At John Jay, I took legal classes with Dr. Roure and participated in internships she helped set up. Each semester, I took six classes and did two internships. Those internships were designed to immerse RSJ students in a legal environment and connect us with judges who got to know us and could write impressive letters of recommendation.
The summer before my senior year, RSJ provided free online Princeton Review courses to improve our LSAT scores. I started with a score of 142, and by the end of the summer I scored 169—the test is out of 180. With my new score, I knew I could get into a “T14” (top 14) law school.
How did your internships shape your career aspirations?
I interned with Associate Justice Sallie Manzanet-Daniels and the New York Supreme Court Civil Term. I was also a student mediator with the New York State Attorney General. Working with Justice Manzanet-Daniels affirmed that I wanted to become a lawyer. She was the first Latinx woman judge to reach the New York Appellate Division. Witnessing different medical malpractice, juvenile justice, and criminal justice cases in her court put certain disparities—economic, racial, and educational—in clear focus for me. It made me even more passionate about practicing law. During my time working with Justice Manzanet-Daniels, we became so close that she calls herself my “Puerto Rican mom.” When I go to law school, if I need advice or support, I know I can count on her.
I was accepted into eight law schools—Brooklyn Law, Case Western Reserve, University of Houston, Emory, University of Texas at Austin, Washington University at Saint Louis, Cornell, and Georgetown. I decided to go to Georgetown because they gave me a full scholarship—approximately $210,000—and completely embraced who I am. Coming from a low-income family, the idea of graduating from law school debt-free is a dream come true. During my interview with Georgetown, my interviewer started the conversation with “Ramadan Mubarak,” because it was the first day of Ramadan. There was a genuine feeling of appreciation and acceptance that made me know it was the right school for me.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
My goal is to become a federal judge. Currently, there are no Muslim, hijab-wearing women judges. Our perspective is missing and it needs to be there.