$100,000 grant for NC Central School of Law aimed at helping underrepresented students across state

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina Central University's School of Law received a $100,000 grant from the Law School Admission Council with the goal of providing underrepresented students better access to navigate the law school admissions process.

According to Associate Dean Dr. Malik Edwards, it falls in line with the school's mission since its founding in 1939.

"Although now we are an integrated institution, a lot of the things that we're trying to do are still the same; create opportunities for those who wouldn't otherwise have opportunities. But also to train attorneys to back into communities that are underserved," said Edwards.

Using the funds, NC Central will host a summer pipeline program for a week, and offer virtual learning for an additional week, focusing on topics ranging from LSAT prep to application guidance. It hopes to identify 30 students from the state's 10 HBCUs and UNC Pembroke to be part of the program.

"Our hope is that we touch those 30 students. They each touch other folks. And it sort of ripples out," said Edwards.

NC Central Student Bar Association President Chazle Woodley explained the value of diversity in the classroom.

"If everyone in the room is thinking like you, then the room isn't super beneficial. So here, we're constantly in rooms where people aren't like us and don't think like us," said Woodley.

Woodley, who already has a job lined up post-graduation, notes she was fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in extracurriculars growing up, something she is aware others could not.

"(Some students) didn't have the opportunities to go to these learning centers or go to these summer camps that were about science and tech and law, and all these kinds of things. They weren't exposed early on. They do get a disservice because it's not that they don't have the intelligence, it's that we didn't start from the same place," said Woodley.

It's why she's excited about this grant, understanding its widescale effect.

A 2019 report from the American Bar Foundation found that Hispanics account for 12.7% of law students and Blacks accounted for 7.8% of law students; both figures are underrepresented based on their respective population sizes.

Edwards notes the downside of trends continuing in this direction.

"I think it's two-fold. One, communities will not believe in the legal system if they don't see themselves represented in the system. And two, we need to have an exchange of ideas," said Edwards, noting that extends to experiences and ideals. He added they will also look for first-generation students to be part of this program.

The application portal is expected to open in January, as staff at NC Central work with pre-law advisors at the state's 10 HBCU's and UNC Pembroke.
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