After earning full scholarships to nearly every law school she applied to, Iesha-LaShay Phillips ’22 has decided to pursue a fully funded law degree at Yale Law School in the fall.
Phillips’ recent award follows an academic career accented with scholastic achievements.
In 2021, Phillips, a law and society and Africana studies double major, was selected as a Frederick Douglass Global Fellow, which provides a full scholarship to participate in a summer study abroad program focused on leadership, intercultural communication, and social justice. The Newman Civic Engagement Fellowship and Harry S. Truman Scholarship followed several months later. In addition to $30,000 for graduate school, Truman Scholars participate in several programs, including a leadership week, three-month summer institute in Washington D.C., and other programs that support Truman scholars throughout their public service careers.
Immediately after graduating from Oberlin in June, Phillips will participate in the SEO Law Fellowship, the only program of its kind that places talented, underrepresented incoming law students in top law firms around the nation before they begin law school.
“I am so excited for a summer of exploring my interests and gaining valuable legal experience that will prepare me for my legal career,” says Phillips. “I aspire to use my legal education to fight to end generational incarceration, prevent family separation, and give children a chance to live outside of the criminal legal system. I hope to work as a criminal defense attorney and eventually shift to impact litigation.”
Service to others is essential in Phillips’ career goals and personal philosophy. She is a member of the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Committee, and has been involved with the Bonner Center since her first year at Oberlin, serving as an associate at the Writing Center and Speaking Center, and was a writing tutor at Oberlin High School, among other campus involvements. In her junior year, she volunteered at juvenile detention facilities throughout Ohio with Writers In Residence (WIR). This work, she explains, “is very important because it uplifts the often ignored voices of the youth in these facilities. Workshops allow them to reflect on their lives and tell their stories. These workshops also restore their humanity because these children are often disregarded in society and treated without basic respect, but this work forces others to see them as people, as children. To see that they deserve gentleness and kindness.”
Phillips is currently studying peace, justice, and community engagement in a study away program that is traveling throughout Central America. The experience is allowing her “to learn from those typically left out of academia like Indigenous, Afro-Latinx, and poor communities,” she says. “We are typically based in a large city, but we take excursions to Indigenous communities and to rural communities to learn about social change and those most oppressed by their governments.”
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