St. John's Law 1L Matthew Atewe holds a photo of his father
When a recurring knee injury ended Matthew Atewe’s dream of playing professional basketball, the first call he made was to his father back home in Toronto. “Think and pray tonight,” his dad told him. “Then decide what to do tomorrow.”
It was sage advice from the man Matthew calls “the reason for everything,” his inspiration, and his hero. The admiration is easy to understand. His father was 25 years old when he left his native Nigeria for a new life in Canada with just two pairs of pants, two shirts, and $20 dollars. Finding work as a dishwasher and a court translator, he set down roots and asked his wife to emigrate from Africa and join him.
The two started a family, welcoming Matthew first and then three more children, two boys and a girl. As they grew, Matthew and his siblings saw the sacrifices their father made for his loved ones working two jobs from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. every day. In time, they also saw their parents’ dream of owning their own beauty business become a reality.
As his family strived, Matthew found a passion and talent for basketball. It became a main focus of his life and took him from Canada to a Massachusetts boarding school as a teen. He went on to play Division I ball in college and then entered Spain’s professional league. “That’s where I was playing when I tore my meniscus three times in one season,” he recalls. “I knew my basketball career was over and I needed my dad’s guidance to get through my despair.”
The day after he made that call to his dad, Matthew decided to send hundreds of messages to attorneys on LinkedIn, hoping to open a door to his next opportunity. Out of those hundreds, just one responded to his cold calls: Stacy D. Heard, a family law practitioner with her own firm in Seattle. “Ms. Heard offered me an internship for Summer 2019 and I jumped at the chance,” says Matthew. “I attended a conference with her in Texas and saw people there who looked like me and were thriving. That sealed it. I knew my next step was to take the LSAT and go to law school.”
Matthew was interning with Heard again this past summer when he got the news that St. John’s Law was awarding him a full-tuition scholarship. He was also selected as one of the Law School’s inaugural Theodore T. Jones, Jr. Fellows. Now, almost two months into his 1L year, he’s thriving. “Just being around like-minded people who are also goal-oriented is so refreshing,” he shares. “And I love the challenge of learning the law.”
With interests spanning fashion, music, and immigration law, Matthew looks forward to seeing where his Law School journey takes him. Wherever he goes, he will continue to be guided by his father and his faith. “My dad set such a powerful example of perseverance,” he says. “My mother passed away in 2010, and he kept their successful business going while raising us up and starting a new entrepreneurial venture. I’m here pursuing my dreams off the basketball court because of him, and that inspires me to do my best at St. John’s and honor him every single day.”