Rufus Barner, one of the 2010 recipients of the inaugural Donald Hubert Endowed Memorial Scholarships for Legal Diversity at The John Marshall Law School, shares some of his thoughts on what the scholarship means to him.
Established to honor the late Donald Hubert – an esteemed Chicago trial lawyer and civic leader – the scholarships are intended to attract applicants to the law school from diverse backgrounds and experiences who show promise of best embodying Hubert’s dedication to service to the community and the profession.
I was nervous when I applied to law school. I knew I had a unique story and I was worried that a law school admissions committee would not take the time to see past the numbers to hear that story. In the Englewood community, where I grew up, I was considered an academic super star. It soon became apparent at the University of Chicago that I had never encountered rigorous academic work in high school. I was at the top of an under-funded high school, which meant that I would struggle at one of the best universities in the country. It was up to me to learn the study habits and reading skills necessary to achieve in a rigorous academic environment.
John Marshall saw me — the “me” beyond the numbers. They noticed the steady, clear improvement in my undergraduate grades. They observed how I took my own childhood experience, being evicted from one substandard apartment to the next and had turned it into a paralegal job helping families with eviction defense. I think that this scholarship demonstrates that John Marshall knows that diversity is more than being a person of color. Diversity, in my case, meant growing up in one of the poorest, most violent communities in Chicago and turning that into a strength. I learned from my experiences in Englewood and shaped that into a passion for helping families like my own.
Even before applying to law school, I met John Marshall alumni who took the time to get to know my story and me. As a paralegal at the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing, I worked closely with John Marshall alumni dedicated to eviction defense for low-income people. My co-workers believed in my abilities and thought I would be a great attorney. They shared my passion for using law to make a difference in the lives of Chicago families. The John Marshall graduates that I worked with credited their abilities and commitment to their education. They told me about the clinics John Marshall offers that gave them the real-world experience that prepared them for their work at the Lawyers’ Committee. These people showed me that John Marshall produces bright, dedicated, and socially conscious attorneys. If I wanted to get a great legal education, John Marshall would be the best place to go.
Of course, this scholarship gave me the opportunity to attend law school without a looming mountain of debt. I prepared myself for law school anticipating $100,000 worth of debt. I was preparing myself to have to take a job because of its earning capacity instead of its benefits to society. With this scholarship, I do not have to worry about money. I can take a summer job that does not pay. I can do work with a solo practitioner, a judge or a non-profit that cannot afford to pay students. Ultimately, this scholarship will allow me to gain experience in a field of my choice—helping those people most important to me.
Applications are now being accepted for the Donald Hubert Endowed Memorial Scholarships for Legal Diversity for the 2011-12 academic year. Each year, two entering John Marshall Law School students receive full tuition grants for three years, and a living stipend of $15,000 per year for three years. Interested applicants should contact Associate Dean William B. Powers at (312) 987-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.