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Ron Brown Scholars Program Opens Doors to Opportunity

Monday, November 28, 2016

This fall, the entering 1L class at St. John’s Law included 14 recipients of the full-tuition Ronald H. Brown Scholarship. These students are starting their legal education as the newest members of the Ron Brown Scholars Program administered by the Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights in collaboration with the Office of Admissions.

“St. John’s has a longstanding commitment to building diversity in our student body,” says Professor Elaine M. Chiu, the Center’s director. “We do so in numerous ways, including awarding full-tuition scholarships in the name of our esteemed alumnus, Ronald H. Brown ’70, ‘89HON, who was the first African-American secretary of commerce and the first African-American chair of the Democratic National Committee.” 

The mission of the Ron Brown Scholars Program is to select highly accomplished students who have overcome economic, social, or educational disadvantage, to support them during their years in law school and to nurture an interest in equality, civil rights, and social justice. “The hope is that a strong collaboration among the student scholars, the faculty affiliated with the Center, and the Law School’s administration and alumni will produce valuable career options for the students as well as advance the work of the Center on justice and equality,” Professor Chiu explains.

The Ron Brown Scholars benefit from:

  • Assistance in securing internships, practicums, and summer placements 
  • Invite-only events and gatherings
  • Opportunities to network with civil rights leaders, practitioners, and alumni
  • Invite-only meetings with faculty and administrators 
  • Opportunities to publish in the Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development

This summer, the new Ron Brown Scholars were given an early opportunity to learn in the field when they visited the New York City offices of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF). They met with St. John’s Law Professor Janai S. Nelson, who is on leave from the Law School while she works as associate director-counsel at the NAACP LDF. They also met with one of LDF’s voting rights attorneys, Duane Rudolph, and took photos at a desk that once belonged to Thurgood Marshall, who fought for civil rights during a long and brilliant career with the LDF before becoming the first African-American on the U.S. Supreme Court.

The student participants appreciate all that the Ron Brown Scholars Program has to offer. “My family and I view the Ron Brown Scholars Program as an answer to our prayers—a blessing,” says Leandra Johnson ‘19. “I knew that I wanted to go to law school, but without a full scholarship it was, quite frankly, impossible. Although I was offered full scholarships to other law schools, I chose St. John's because of the relationships I developed here as an undergraduate through the Ron Brown Center for Civil Rights and its Ronald H. Brown Law School Prep Program for College Students.”

Samantha Ojo ’19 is also thrilled to be part of the Program. “Being a Ron Brown Scholar has already enhanced my experience at St. John’s tremendously,” she shares. “The scholarship not only removed a financial burden, but it also provided me with a group of friends to identify and study with, as well as experienced faculty to consult about my academic and professional goals. Quite literally, the scholarship has allowed me to pursue my dreams, and I’m beyond grateful for the opportunity.”