Less than three months after graduating from college, Devin Fairrow '20 stood in front of a class of fifth graders in a poverty-challenged public elementary school in rural Alabama. It was the Kentucky native’s first assignment with the nonprofit Teach for America (TFA), and it was an eye opener.
“TFA came around when I was a senior at the University of Louisville,” Fairrow recalls. “I had already applied to law school, but the TFA recruiter convinced me that I had what it took to help in the fight to close the achievement gap in education. That really spoke to me because, by all accounts, I was an exception to the rule that poor black children—and poor children from other minority and underrepresented populations—don’t receive a quality education in this country, and miss out on opportunities for advancement that a quality education affords.”
Answering the call to make a difference, Fairrow started what would become a successful, seven-year teaching career that took him from Alabama to Atlanta to New York City’s Harlem. Along the way, he changed young lives. “My students lacked basic reading and math skills, were used to failing, and had very low self-esteem as a result,” he says. “But I was up for the challenge. All they needed was some fun, lots of chances to succeed, and to know that I loved them unequivocally.”
While Fairrow uplifted his students, they also moved him. “One day in class I was talking with my students about their dreams and mine and a few of them asked me why I didn’t go to law school if it was so important to me,” he says. “That did it. I wanted to show them the value of sticking to their guns and going after everything they want in life.”
Fairrow applied to law school and was thrilled to be accepted to St. John’s with a full-tuition Ronald H. Brown Scholarship. “Other schools offered me full scholarships, but St. John’s really seemed to be interested in me as a person,” he explains. “When I attended admitted students events at St. John’s Law, I literally didn’t meet a stranger. Everyone was genuinely kind, genuinely helpful, and genuinely seemed happy that I was considering the school. It truly felt like a family.”
As he builds his foundation of legal knowledge and skills, Fairrow is also exploring how the practice of law intersects with his teaching background as well as his longtime interests in music, performance, and world travel and affairs. With guidance from counselors in the Law School’s Career Development Office, he recently applied for, and earned a spot in, a new American Bar Association (ABA) Rule of Law Initiative (ROLI) summer internship program.
For almost 30 years, ABA ROLI has been promoting justice, economic opportunity, and human dignity through the rule of law. With programs in countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Eurasia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Middle East and North Africa it works to strengthen governance and the justice sector, improve human rights and access to justice, mitigate conflict, and ensure inclusive and sustainable development.
This summer, for the first time, ABA ROLI is partnering with the international law firm Jones Day and its Jones Day Foundation to offer the nine-week Jones Day Rule of Law Diversity Internship program that introduces participants from diverse backgrounds to the international Rule of Law field.
The interns will experience a wide variety of tasks and activities that contribute to Rule of Law programing within an international development context. With support from their supervisor, they will work on current programs in one or more regions, research and evaluation, and outreach and communications. The interns will also explore the legal, international, and social aspects of Washington, DC, where the internship program is based.
“When I came across the Jones Day Rule of Law Diversity Internship, with its focus on diversity and inclusion, I was immediately sold,” says Fairrow. “I have a strong interest in everything international. I’m also deeply passionate about the advancement of marginalized people. This program is perfectly tailored to fit those interests, and I’m excited to learn all I can this summer so I can be a genuine asset to the overall movement as a lawyer and as a global citizen.”