Four year ago, Jacquelyn Patterson walked the across Thurgood Marshall Academy’s stage to receive her high school diploma. In May 2013, she became an alumna of Spelman College in Atlanta, GA, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a concentration in Pre-Law.
In high school, “I knew that I wanted to advocate for those in my community, but I was unsure how,” recalls Jacquelyn. Early on, out-of-school programs at Thurgood Marshall Academy helped solidify her interest in finding a way to give back to her community. Thanks to Thurgood Marshall Academy’s links to local and national stakeholders, Jacquelyn worked with Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton to complete community service hours. In this role, Jacquelyn says, “I interacted with the residents of DC and heard their concerns about their communities as well as how legislation affected them.”
The summer before senior year, Jacquelyn, along with five other classmates, participated in a pilot internship with the DC Superior Court Family Division. From this internship, Jacquelyn gained a long-term mentor and advocate: Judge Gregory Jackson. “He asked about our future aspirations for college and for our careers. He told us that if we promised to stay on our path, he’d stay in contact. I’m proud to say that six years later, Judge Jackson is still one of my mentors.”
Jacquelyn believes Thurgood Marshall Academy’s five legal skills—Advocacy, Argumentation, Critical Thinking, Negotiation, and Research—continue to play an important role in her professional development. “I worked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People during a domestic exchange semester at American University. During this internship, I used the research skill while compiling an executive summary and binder on President Obama’s proposed 2011 American Jobs Act.” Working with the NAACP has also given Jacquelyn many opportunities to work as an advocate. She facilitated constituent phone calls to congressional representatives in support of the Voting Rights Act and was politically active during the 2012 election season. “I accompanied NAACP Washington Bureau Director Hilary O. Shelton to advocacy hearings before various committees on Capitol Hill to help dismantle some of the legislation that was being passed in many states to disenfranchise many American citizens,” she recalls.
As a result of her collective academic and professional experiences, Jacquelyn decided to pursue a degree in law. “My goal is to ultimately become a lawyer and work for a non-profit or advocacy program and then ultimately work for the U.S. Department of Justice in the Civil Rights Division,” she explains. Jacquelyn is currently preparing to apply for law school by gaining hands-on experience in the field, working as a paralegal for the National Criminal Enforcement section of the U.S. Department of Justice – Antitrust division. She continues to study for the LSAT, and is taking the law-school entrance examination in December 2014.