One of the central tenets of Stephen Neilson’s scholarship-winning essay is this: “We need more lawyers of color.” As a student at Harvard Law School, Nielson himself is a shining example of under-represented peoples continuing the work of diversifying the legal profession.
However, Neilson would be the first to tell you that this story is but one moment in a long chain of influences. “My entire candidacy to law school rests on those who first provided me the opportunity, perspective, and confidence to pursue my dreams,” he wrote.
These mentors include the grandparents who moved his family out of poverty in Jamaica, former colleagues at Morehouse College who encouraged and demonstrated Black excellence, and historical mentors and advocates for desegregation and diversification.
A History of Mentorship and Advocacy
In his winning essay, Stephen Neilson remarks on influential people like Heman Marion Sweatt and George Lewis Ruffin, who fought for desegregation in education and became the first Black graduate of Harvard Law School, respectively.
In the footsteps of his influences, Neilson has begun providing mentorship and academic aid to others in his community. As he told representatives of Ben Crump Law, “I currently serve as a Student Attorney with the Harvard Defenders. I also am actively involved in Harvard’s Black Law Students Association 1L Committee. I do some LSAT tutoring, and I also am an Admissions Fellow at the law school.”
Neilson’s work also includes serving with the new Harvard Law project Dear Future Colleague, which seeks to provide resources to underrepresented law school applicants in an effort to “level the playing field” and increase access to education.
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What the Future Holds for Stephen Neilson
Neilson’s plans for the future reflect his current interests in niche areas of law. Two primary avenues toward which he plans to direct his efforts include civil rights law and tenant advocacy.
One thing is clear for Neilson, though: his goal is to serve and improve the communities that have provided him with the opportunities he has enjoyed in life. “One goal I have after graduation is to move back south and become a lawyer that is well connected and grounded within my community,” he told Ben Crump Law.
Given his past work, current volunteer and mentorship efforts, and future plans, Stephen Neilson is the perfect fit for the $2,500 Ben Crump Law School Scholarship.
You can read Neilson’s winning essay here.