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Law School Prep Program Student Brittany Butler Pursues Her Dream of Advocating for At-Risk Youth

Monday, June 26, 2017

Recently, Hofstra Law Professor Akilah Folami helped to launch the Summer 2017 Ronald H. Brown Law School Prep Program for College Students with a riveting luncheon series talk.

Recounting how her professional dream became a reality, Professor Folami noted that the cards were stacked high against her as the daughter of a teen mother from the inner city of Providence, RI. But she persevered, attending the prestigious Spelman College and Columbia Law School, earning a clerkship with the esteemed Hon. Constance Baker Motley, practicing law at a top firm, and then attaining the “holy grail of teaching” as a tenured law professor.

While she had support from family, friends, and mentors along the way, Professor Folami shared, “ultimately it was me, alone, navigating those spaces—spaces that weren’t always welcoming, that were overwhelming and, frankly at times, just downright intimidating.” She succeeded, she said, by becoming self-aware and self-sufficient, and by knowing her value and her own worth.

It was a message of triumph over adversity and of gritty determination that resonated deeply with Prep Program student Brittany Butler, a rising senior at Spelman College. After losing both her parents as a teenager, the Baton Rouge, LA native struggled to keep her and her younger twin siblings together as a family. After being homeless for a time, she entered the foster care system.

“I always saw education as a way to escape my situation, and I promised my mother before she died that I’d stay in school so that, one day, I could get my family out of poverty,” Butler says. After graduating high school with honors, and with financial and other support from organizations and individuals in her community, Butler became the first in her family to attend college, where she is excelling.

Butler learned about the Prep Program from a fellow Spelman student, who is a Program alumna. Now in her second summer in the Program and studying for the LSAT, Butler has a view of the path ahead. “I see myself working as an advocate for at-risk youth,” she says, adding, “I want young people who face adversity to be able to see their potential, what they can become. I want to be a beacon of hope for them.”

With this blueprint for her future, Butler is living Professor Folami’s concluding message to the Prep Program students: “You have chosen a noble field to pursue. Dig deep as the next leaders. Hear that voice, that whisper, and heed its call.”

About the Ronald H. Brown Law School Prep Program for College Students
For over a decade, in partnership with colleges and universities across the country, the Ron Brown Prep Program has helped students from traditionally underserved and underrepresented groups—who are often the first in their families to attend college—apply to law school and pursue legal careers. Spread over three summers, the Prep Program features a law school boot camp, legal internships, mentors, a speaker series, events at firms and bar associations, customized LSAT test prep, support groups, diversity and personal statement workshops, and resume and interview counseling by career professionals. Over 120 alumni have gone on to 54 different law schools nationwide, including Cornell, Duke, Fordham, Georgetown, George Washington, Harvard, St. John's, SUNY at Buffalo, UC-Berkeley, UC-Davis, UCLA, University of Florida, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale. Together they’ve earned millions of dollars in law school scholarships. The Prep Program has received major funding from AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company, CUNY Black Male Initiative, Department of Latin America and Latina/o Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Dillard University, Duane Morris LLP, Harlem Children’s Zone, Harris Beach LLC, Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP, Jerome and Dolores Gerwirtz Charitable Trust, Kaplan Test Prep, Kramer Levin Neftalis & Frankel, Merck & Co., Monroe College, NAPABA Law Foundation, Paul Hastings LLP, United Negro College Fund, and York College.  In 2016, The Access Group Center for Research & Policy Analysis® awarded the Prep Program a $125,000 grant through its Legal Education Diversity Pipeline.

About the Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights
The Ron Brown Center has been a force at St. John’s University School of Law since 1999, conducting legal studies, research, and outreach on matters that affect the rights of underrepresented people. Along with the Prep Program, it leads several path-breaking initiatives designed to increase the pool of qualified students of color in law schools, to teach law students how to be leaders in social justice as they enter the legal profession, and to support lawyers of color pursuing careers in academia.