Congratulations to Felicia Atkinson the 2018 NCBA Paralegal Division Student Scholarship Winner.  Felicia was recognized on May 4, 2018, at the Paralegal Division’s Annual Meeting at the Pinehurst Resort.  As part of the application process, applicants submitted an essay on the topic “The Factors Which Lead Me to Enroll in Paralegal School.” The Paralegal Division Student Scholarship provides an award of $500 in tuition paid directly to a North Carolina resident enrolled in a North Carolina-qualified paralegal studies program as defined by the North Carolina State Bar. You must be a student member of the NCBA Paralegal Division to be eligible for the scholarship.  Student membership in the NCBA Paralegal Division is FREE!

Please enjoy reading Felicia’s winning submission:

By Felicia Atkinson

It was a hot summer day in August and my youngest brother, twin sister, and I were playing dodge ball in the street. My mother came to the back door of the house and yelled for us to come inside. The three of us ran inside the house excited that perhaps Momma made fresh lemonade and strawberry shortcake. When we entered the kitchen, our summer favorites were on the table. Momma told us to sit down and eat in the kitchen instead of taking our treats back outside. Leticia, my identical twin sister, and I sat at our little wood table set, a present from the previous Christmas. Shawn, my youngest brother, jumped up and sat on Momma’s lap. Daddy was standing in the doorway to the kitchen and my favorite aunt, Momma Stell, was sitting next to Momma. Daddy said he had bad news to tell us. I looked at Momma and realized she had been crying. At that moment, Daddy told us our oldest brother, Alex, was killed last night.

Alex, my idol, was gone. Although I did not understand the concept of death at 7 years of age, I did understand that Alex, with the IQ of a genius, would not be starting Harvard Law School in three weeks.  The brother, who I always followed around the house and tried to imitate, would no longer call me “his little prodigy.” In my mind, this meant that I would not be going to law school.

Now, 23 years later, I find myself enrolled in paralegal school as preparation for admission to law school. I am unsure as to which law school programs I will apply. However, it would be amazing if I was admitted to Harvard Law School like Alex. Alex, my oldest brother, will always be the biggest influence in all my career goals for the rest of my life

Another reason why I enrolled in paralegal school is Barbara Jordan, an African-American lawyer and the first woman to run for president. My mother often refers to me as “Miss Jordan” when I speak about issues of today. Ms. Jordan was the first woman to do many things in her legal career. I thirst to be the first lawyer in my family and wholeheartedly believe Ms. Jordan’s statement that “there is no obstacle in the path of young people who are poor or members of minority groups that hard work and preparation cannot cure.” So, successfully completing paralegal school at Pitt Community College will provide a solid foundational understanding of the law prior to starting any law school program.

The various networking opportunities available via the instructors and students in paralegal school are invaluable. At Pitt Community College, we have students who currently work in law offices. We also have students who work for the North Carolina court system. They share experiences and create opportunities for learning for other students. In the wills and trust class, a student employed with the courts organized a visitation to the Register of Deeds office. A previous student introduced me to the Guardian ad Litem program. As a Guardian ad Litem volunteer, observing family court, writing case reports, and networking with practicing attorneys has provided unique learning experiences about topics studied in the paralegal technology program at Pitt Community College.

Furthermore, there have been countless opportunities to volunteer, meet current law students and visit law schools as a member of the North Carolina Bar Association Paralegal Division. Writing a small blog last year about me and benefits of being a paralegal student was motivating. The fact that I can continue to support and engage with the community through volunteerism is priceless. Volunteering with events, such as Wills for Heroes, Mock Trials, and 4All Statewide Service Day exposed another aspect of an attorney’s life that I had never envisioned. Attending programs, like Elon Law School Prospective Student Day, Pre-Law Conference at Campbell University, and Career Toolbox have enlightened me about what to expect as a law school student. The continuing legal education programs truly deliver information, insights and skills a student needs to succeed and develop their career as a paralegal or an attorney. Programs covering topics of intellectual property, drafting basics of a will & revocable trust, and best practices in mergers and acquisitions due diligence, stimulated my interest in areas of the law that I had never considered.

Paralegal school is the best way to acquire legal research skills and knowledge about the various areas of the law prior to entering any law school program. This fact made the decision to enroll in paralegal school an easy choice. Paralegals do a tremendous amount of work for attorneys in all practice areas of the law. Hence, I realized the need to learn how to perform the job duties of a paralegal. A concrete comprehension of the various areas of the law, i.e. civil, commercial, criminal, ethics, family, real estate, and wills, trusts & estates, can be gained from a paralegal program.  In addition, practice in writing legal briefs, performing legal research using Westlaw or Fastcase, searches for deeds, and much more will develop technical skills. The biggest advantage is that I can take the North Carolina Certified Paralegal exam upon finishing the paralegal technology program at Pitt Community College. With confidence, I can work as a corporate paralegal or real estate paralegal in the event I am not immediately accepted into law school.

All the factors which lead me to enroll in paralegal school are representative of who I am and who I am becoming. Like Alex, I am following my goal of becoming an attorney. The paralegal technology program at Pitt Community College is making it easier for me to navigate through any law school program. The outside networking and volunteering opportunities have increased my confidence and added value to my paralegal studies. Learning about the various kinds of law can be as overwhelming as writing a good case brief. However, I do believe that preparation and hard work are the keys as Ms. Jordan proved time and time again in her career as an attorney.