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“Dad, I hate the shot put. It’s so hard,” I whined as we walked away from the throwing area. “Can I just quit?” My dad paused and bent down to look me in the eyes.
“Thanithia, if you quit something just because it’s hard, you’ll be quitting for the rest of your life. No one can succeed if they’re always quitting.” This earnest moment between my father and me would go on to shape and influence me well beyond a nine year old deciding not to quit throwing the shot put. Any time that I have faced a new challenge and am tempted to give up, I think back to this moment.
In my first few months at Princeton University, I was constantly plagued with fears about my perceived inadequacies. I wasn’t smart enough. I didn’t have enough money to properly socialize with the other students. I didn’t have what was needed to succeed. Only two months into my first semester, I had amassed enough self-doubt that I was ready to give up my place at Princeton. I had filled out the necessary transfer forms and was fully prepared to leave. Before mailing the transfer forms, I sat down to make a list of reasons to leave and a list of reasons to stay. As I stared at my reasons to leave, I realized that they all centered around one problem: Princeton was hard. It was then that I recalled that moment with my father. I knew that I could not give up just because Princeton was a challenge. I merely needed to find my place.
With renewed determination, I searched for where I fit best and found Princeton’s Pride Alliance, a group of students dedicated to building a safe community for Princeton’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) students and promoting issues of social justice and advocacy as they relate to the LGBT community. As a young member of the organization, I was like a sponge, soaking in knowledge about LGBT issues. In the second semester of my sophomore year, I was elected president of the Pride Alliance. As a leader of the organization, I became more aware of the logistics of social justice and advocacy, and I was introduced to another facet of advocacy: fund availability. This introduction ultimately led to my interest in law.
During the planning of my first major Pride Alliance event, a lunch and lecture with a popular LGBT speaker, I faced several problems with securing funding. A condition of many of the funding sources for student organizations at Princeton was collaboration with other student organizations, and after several attempts, only one organization volunteered to cosponsor our event due to the potentially controversial nature of the speaker. This resulted in a severe lack of funding, and approximately three weeks before the event was scheduled, the Pride Alliance still needed nearly eight hundred dollars to meet our goal. We were preparing to cancel the speaker, and once again my father’s words rung in my head. I knew that if we renewed our efforts, there had to be a way to get the necessary funding.
Instead of canceling the event, I once again asked the leaders of other student organizations for collaboration and applied to other unorthodox funding options. After days of nonstop calls and e-mails to various student organizations and academic departments, we received the funding that we needed. The speaker was a success, and through the application process and funding challenges, I realized that I was confronted with similar challenges that advocacy organizations often face. Like many advocacy groups, we were nearly unable to achieve our goal due to the elaborate rules and mechanisms required to receive funding. In facing these challenges, I discovered my interests lay in helping organizations with historically limited access to funding in the political sphere achieve effective advocacy. Additionally, I began to understand that effective advocacy can only be achieved through efficient funding and something more than merely passion: a complex and thorough understanding of political and legal factors as they relate to advocacy organizations.
I am interested in attending William and Mary Law School because at William and Mary, I can build an understanding of political and legal factors in order to effectively help underrepresented advocacy organizations further their cause and provide help to those in need. The variety of course electives focusing on public interest law that William and Mary provides would greatly help me to achieve my goals. Through William and Mary’s diverse curriculum, I would be able to tailor classes toward my interests in advocacy and, with a focus on civil and human rights law, be better equipped to handle the legal issues that underrepresented organizations face.
Even though Princeton was initially an incredibly hard experience, a simple reexamination and my decision to face the inherent challenges led me to discover my interest and passion in social justice and advocacy. Thanks to my father and my experiences at Princeton, I have learned that no success comes from giving up on a challenge. Over ten years later, this moment remains a constant reminder that challenges are to be confronted and never avoided. I believe that this attitude will help me succeed as a law student and as an advocate.
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