Stories of Triumph and Commitment to Civil Rights Distinguish the 32 Scholars Selected by LDF

New York, NY – Thirty-two law school and undergraduate students are the newest beneficiaries of a prestigious scholarship from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (“LDF”), the organization announced today. Among the scholars are a student at Columbia Law School who spent part of his childhood homeless and a Harvard Law School student who has dedicated his life to social justice.

LDF’s newly revamped Earl Warren Scholarship targets talented future law students pursuing a career in racial justice and civil rights, and grants a three-year scholarship in the amount of $30,000. LDF selected five promising students now enrolled in their first year of law school at Columbia, Harvard, Howard, and UCLA. In addition to receiving financial support, these law students will have the opportunity to intern at LDF and attend its annual lawyers’ training conference. 

As a high school student Que Mykte’ Newbill hoped to become the first person in his family to attend college. But with his family homeless, he faced enormous obstacles. “I walked three miles to take the SAT,” he said. “On weekends, I took the bus to the public library to finish college applications.” Newbill’s experiences have given him a clear direction in life. Newbill is devoted to “the role of law in disrupting poverty, empowering disenfranchised communities, and helping end racist policies,” he said. At the Stimson Center, Newbill worked as a Scoville Fellow and Middle East Research Analyst, and later designed a cross-cultural initiative connecting urban Arab youth and American youth through hip-hop and slam poetry. As a 2015 recipient of the 2015 Earl Warren Scholarship and an active student at Columbia Law School, Newbill exemplifies the goal of expanding educational opportunities in the pursuit of social justice.  

Cameron Clark, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate at the University of Texas at Austin, has dedicated his academic studies to the theory, development, and execution of social justice initiatives. In his personal essay, Clark recounted powerfully his experience of a die-in at U-T Austin protesting police violence and attending President Obama’s speech at the 2014 Civil Rights Summit. “I will use the blessings I have been afforded to secure rights and liberties for marginalized groups,” Clark wrote.  He also wrote a commentary on originalist judicial review in same-sex marriage cases that appears in the Spring 2015 edition of the Texas Undergraduate Law Review. Now at Harvard Law School, Clark serves on the Student Government Committee for Diversity and Inclusion, facilitating intersectional analysis and promoting solutions both on- and off-campus. “I am honored and humbled to receive the Earl Warren Scholarship,” said Clark, “and excited to use the resources at my disposal to pursue justice for those most in need.”

Ayana Williams, a Pennsylvania native, recently had the honor of being pinned by her sister (an alumna) in the traditional Howard Law School ceremony as part of her orientation, where she also met the law school’s Dean, Danielle Holley-Walker. “I was incredibly surprised and flattered to find out that I was chosen for the scholarship,” said Williams. “I knew that there were over 200 people who had put in the time to prepare all of the required materials and, undoubtedly, were very qualified. I’m excited to be part of the LDF family and be able to grow under the mentorship of the foremost advocates of racial justice in the country.”

Micah Watkins, a recipient of the Herbert Lehman Scholarship, discovered his leadership in a moment of desperation in January 2013, when he was on his way to a gang member’s house. A text message from a younger cousin who looked up to him for “not being a part of any street gangs…and staying in school” stopped him in his tracks. It brought him back to his goals and the leadership skills he already possessed. “The exceptional leader is always thinking three steps ahead, working to master his/her own environment with the goal of avoiding problems before they arise,” said Watkins. “That’s why leadership is my biggest achievement.”

Other recipients include Beulah I. Agbabiaka who is attending Columbia Law School and Caleb A. Jackson who is attending the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law.

The Herbert Lehman Scholarship is LDF’s signature award for undergraduates, which provides $2,000 per year for four years totaling $8,000 to exemplary students in need of support to complete their degrees. In August, LDF granted twenty-seven grants to students attending Brandeis University, Columbia College, University of Chicago, Concordia College, Duke University, Florida A&M University, Florida International University, Florida State University, Georgia Southern University, Harvard University, Morehouse College, New York University, North Carolina Central University, Pepperdine University, Quinnipiac University, Rutgers University, Smith College, Savannah State University, Spelman College, Temple University, University of Georgia, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Oregon, University of South Carolina, University of Washington, Utica College, and Wingate University.

 “Both the Earl Warren and Herbert Lehman scholarship programs are transformative tools that help LDF to fulfill its mission to achieve racial justice and expand pathways to opportunity for all people,” said LDF President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill. “The changes we’ve made to our scholarship programs this year will allow us to provide more substantial support to students in need, and to more directly support the development of the next generation of civil rights lawyers. This will allow LDF to more effectively support and nurture young leaders who are committed to the struggle for equal justice and inclusion and who exemplify the promise of democracy in this country.” 

More information, including applications, can be found at: www.naacpldf.org/scholarships. The LDF Scholarship Programs are made possible by the generous contributions of LDF’s supporters.  To make a donation, please visit www.naacpldf.org/scholarships.      

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The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is not a part of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) although LDF was founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. Since 1957, LDF has been a completely separate organization. Please refer to us in all media attributions as the “NAACP Legal Defense Fund” or “LDF.”

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