Jackson State University alumna Natasha Scruggs, J.D., held a two-day Future Black Lawyers workshop with students in the Fannie Lou Hamer Pre-Law Society. Scruggs is the founder of JustUs System Incorporated, an organization that hosts camps and workshops to inspire young minority students to pursue law.
“I was on this campus. I wanted to be a lawyer. I prayed. I cried. I worked. I was a broke college student and now being able to come back and help students just like me have an opportunity [to become a lawyer] is like a full circle moment,” Scruggs shared.
Junior political science major Alexandria Williams orchestrated Scruggs visit to JSU, contacting the alum and asking her to bring her Future Black Lawyers Institute (FBLI) to JSU. Scruggs did just that, hosting her workshop during JSU’s homecoming in October.
“I’m so glad we have people like her [Scruggs] who are hands-on and wanting to build, learn and teach us,” said Williams, a first-generation college student with plans of becoming an attorney. “I don’t have anyone to mentor me or guide me through this process; I’m all alone. My family doesn’t understand what I’m going through right now.”
During the two-day workshop, Scruggs, a St. Louis, Missouri native, invited several local judges and attorneys to provide experiential insight to the attendees in preparation for law school.
Senica Tubwell, J.D., also a JSU alumnus, answered the call to show support and offer advice to the aspiring lawyers who attended the workshop. He said he’s always willing to make time for the students and his friend Jacobi Grant, J.D., who serves as the advisor for the Fannie Lou Hamer Pre-Law Society.
“I think it’s very important and almost necessary, and it’ll be good for the students. Just something this small and having the opportunity to get out and do public speaking and actually start doing things that you’ll be doing in the real world if you go into that profession,” said Tubwell about helping the students prepare for mock trials.
Scruggs said she saw a reflection of herself in students like Williams and felt called to be that mentor she wished she had during her undergraduate years. This inspired her to create the JustUs System Inc. and conduct FBLI workshops where she sees a need.
The member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Incorporated also gave the students an opportunity to participate in a mock trial. The students were split into two teams to present their arguments in front of three appellate judges at the Mississippi Court of Appeals.
The students presented the NCAA v. Alston case and argued “Should students have the right to earn money while playing college sports?” The judges deliberated and selected the two students with the best argument and each received a $500 scholarship from JustUs Inc.
Scholarship recipient Kourtney Graves, a sophomore political science student, praised the workshop for boosting her confidence in her pursuit of a law degree. She also shared that she felt more inspired and prepared for law school after completing the workshop.
“This kind of gave me the confirmation I needed that being an attorney is for me and the judges were actually nice,” said the Milwaukee native. “I’m really grateful that Natasha even has something like this for Black people because I feel like organizations like this need to be made to give us opportunities.”
All of the workshop participants were given a stipend to pay for their Law School Admittance Test (LSAT). They also received professional headshots and LSAT and resume preparation.
Scruggs revealed that the workshops are only the beginning for the mentees she adopts into the FBLI program. “The way that we do it is, we follow our student until they pass the BAR [exam] because it’s a long journey,” Scruggs explained.
At the beginning of the workshop, Scruggs asked the JSU students to swear in as future lawyers. She introduced them to the attorneys in the Jackson chapter of the JustUs System who offered them summer internships at their firms and she invited them to intern at her firm as well.
Grant said the FBLI coincides with the pre-law society’s goal to provide JSU students with enough exposure to adequately prepare them for the law school admissions process, matriculation, and post-law school process.
As an advisor and JSU graduate, Grant says providing the resources and guidance to students that he didn’t have is a personal endeavor of his.
“One thing I didn’t have was a network of resources to help me with the different processes of law school, so this is personal for me. I wanted to come back to my alma mater and give back by providing resources that were previously unavailable,” Grant stated.
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