Senior Spotlight: Brenneis Nesbitt ’19 Envisions A Career In Law

Senior Spotlight: Brenneis Nesbitt ’19 Envisions A Career In Law

Senior Spotlight: Brenneis Nesbitt ’19 Envisions A Career In Law

Our 2019 Commencement Ceremony is right around the corner. To mark the occasion, and celebrate the incredible achievements of our seniors, we spoke with several students that will be graduating on May 29. Our hope is that their stories inspire the entire John Jay community—alumni, faculty, staff, current and prospective students—to strive for excellence. Our first Senior Spotlight is Brenneis Nesbitt ’19, a Pre-Law Institute student who credits John Jay for giving him the opportunity to envision a career in law.

How did you learn about John Jay?
Growing up in New York City, anyone who spoke about becoming an attorney or going into law enforcement, the one school that was consistently mentioned was John Jay. I took a fatherhood initiative course at the Osborne Association and upon completion, I told them that I wanted to go to college and that I wanted to go to John Jay. They referred me to the Prisoner Reentry Institute (PRI) which happened to be here at the College. I interviewed with them and they helped me with everything. John Jay was my first choice, and with their help I was able to come here. It’s been the best decision that I have made for my career.

You are a part of the Pre-Law Institute. Can you tell me about this experience?
I was first introduced to Dr. Charles Davidson, Director of the Pre-Law Institute and Center for Post-Graduate Opportunities, by Natasha Graf from the Transfer Advantage Program. With the background that I had, I explained to Natasha my concerns about becoming a criminal defense attorney. I didn’t think it was possible at the time because I have a criminal record. But Natasha believed in me and personally introduced me to Dr. Davidson. Where I saw my criminal history as a hindrance to my progress moving forward, Charles Davidson saw it as inspiration. He advised me to focus on my grades and GPA, prepare for my LSATs, and that he would take care of the rest. From that day, he has been my main advisor, my mentor, and between him and Elizabeth Broccoli, the direction that I have received is invaluable. When I was applying for the Pinkerton Fellow, Ms. Broccoli and Dr. Davidson were instrumental in prepping me for the interview. Without the two of them, I wouldn’t have envisioned myself heading into the legal field.

“Where I saw my criminal history as a hindrance to my progress moving forward, Charles Davidson saw it as inspiration.”—Brenneis Nesbitt

How has your experience at John Jay helped to shape you as a person?
I transferred to John Jay in 2017 and my experience here has been phenomenal. It’s opened a lot of doors for me. Because of John Jay, I did an internship with the Innocence Project to the point where after I finished, I’m still volunteering there. I also applied for the Pinkerton Fellowship Initiative and got another internship through them. And I’ve had the ability to work with kids who have been in the criminal justice system from ages 13-24, mentoring them, exposing them to opportunities and resources that they normally wouldn’t be affiliated with. My experiences at John Jay have made me realize that my past does not define my future.

“My experiences at John Jay have made me realize that my past does not define my future.”—Brenneis Nesbitt

What’s next for you after graduation?
I’m going to take a year off. John Jay offers a LSAT course here, so I’m going to take that, then take the LSAT and hopefully attend law school next fall. My goal is to get into NYU and become a criminal defense attorney. 

Why do you have an interest in law?
I was involved in the criminal justice and legal system. At my sentencing, I saw the poor representation that I received and that others receive. I was expecting to get a 10-year sentence, but based on my attorney not being as well-versed as he was expected to be, I received a 17-and-a-half year sentence. At that moment I knew I had to do something about that, and I knew I wanted to make a difference. Right away I applied to Blackstone Career Institute and I earned a certificate in Paralegal Studies. After that I gained my associate’s degree in Business Management and I started studying my case. Because of this, I ended up with a three-and-a-half year sentence reduction. During my incarceration, I did a lot of self-reflection and thought about what I wanted out of life coming out of prison. I knew I wanted to make a change, and I knew I wanted to be an advocate for people like me who were poor, underrepresented, and from marginalized communities all across America. I decided that when I came home, I would pursue that goal of becoming an attorney and defend these people. I want to diversify the bar and provide the proper representation to black and brown people.

“I want to diversify the bar and provide the proper representation to black and brown people.”—Brenneis Nesbitt

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen?
I would tell them to make the most of it and to get involved on campus. I work full time, I go to school full time, but still I made time to mingle and socialize with the members of the John Jay community. I found time to be the treasurer of the Youth Justice Club. So get involved in the clubs, go to the events during community hour and you see that you’ll get exposed to many different opportunities.

Finish this sentence for me: Without John Jay...
Without John Jay I wouldn’t be this optimistic about my future. John Jay gave me the chance to meet Dr. Davidson and be part of so many great opportunities. They always supported me and gave me the confidence to see my potential. I would say that without John Jay, my future wouldn’t be as bright or as promising as it is today.